This post is an interview transcript. Click here to listen to Pat Flynn's interview with Antonio Centeno over at Smart Passive Income
Pat: But Antonio, I just wanted to thank you first of all. You've helped me out so much and I know you know this because I've told you before, but there's a reason why I dress this way. And I've gotten so many compliments about how I dress.
Antonio: You have won like contests, haven’t you, like as the best-dressed guy?
Pat: Yeah. I have and it's all because of you. You taught me why I needed to dress up. I started speaking in 2011. You sent me an e-mail. You’re like “Pat, I shot this video for you.” It was like 20 minutes long.
Pat: You remember this.
Pat: And you taught me some basic knowledge that was so transformational for me about style and why I need—
Antonio: I think the key point was like you said, the why because I talked about, you know, you were the Berkeley Band. Correct?
Antonio: And when you walked out on that field wearing your uniform, did anyone question why you're there, who you are?
Antonio: No. And it's the same thing in life. Like if you wanna be successful, you wanna do something amazing. You need to start looking like that amazing person. And so many people it's foreign to them because we live in a culture that doesn't push that, that says a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but it is.
Antonio: And I just want guys, you know, men in particular, but I think I have so many women on my channel as well— because I want them to just understand it's about the message you're sending. It just controls the message whatever it may be.
Pat: And your channel is blown up. I mean, how many subscribers do you have now on YouTube?
Antonio: We’re past 1.7 million.
Pat: So, did you actually receive a gold play button?
Antonio: Oh yeah.
Pat: Oh! That’s so cool.
Antonio: You ever got one? You’re on your way. Right?
Pat: I’m close to 100,000.
Pat: So, we’ll get there. I'm getting a silver one. But dude, I'm so happy about this because you're teaching so much stuff that like they don't teach you in school. Right? And the craziest part, Antonio, was like, okay, you taught me how to dress. I bought some and invested in some nice clothes. And I immediately just felt more confident.
Antonio: You know, at the Northwestern University, they talk about this. It's called in cloth cognition. And it's the idea that the clothing that we wear doesn't just affect how others perceive us, but how we perceive ourselves. The classic study is basically they put these guys in doctor’s jackets. They told them they were doctor’s jackets and they performed statistically higher on exams when they thought they were wearing a doctor's jacket. If you think about it, it applies to sports like guys love their lucky hats. They love their lucky— I mean, the guy’s lucky jockstrap, whatever it may be. And they’re very careful with these things and it does have an immeasurable effect on their performance.
Pat: How did you get started in all this? Like why did you start this channel? How did you get into fashion?
Antonio: So, I had a clothier and it was not getting any business and I had to figure out a way how to get business to the clothier. And I figured out information marketing or at least I like creating content. So, I was trying to get all these visitors to my little website to my clothier out in Wisconsin. And I Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness picked me up. He said, “Hey, you’re a good writer.” So, I started writing for him and he showed me the power of information marketing. And I just saw what he was doing. I'm like “Well, how about I do it via video?” And there was this other guy doing it. I’m like I can do it better than him. It turns out now he’s one of my best friends and business partner.
Pat: No way.
Antonio: I mean, there's just a huge open— a blue ocean out there to be able to go in and just create this content. I love the impact it has and that's probably the thing that keeps me going on like money's nice. We’ve had great success with the business. I closed my clothier and I actually went into bankruptcy with it. It was that bad.
Pat: Oh wow.
Antonio: Well, what I was able to do is to take that loss and that failure and say, “You know what I’m really good at? It’s creating this content.” And so, we focused in on video because I found it was very light for me. You know, John Dumas talks about this, do what's light. For him, it's podcasting. For me, it's video. I don't mind getting up in front of the camera nowadays and talking.
Pat: Was that always the case?
Antonio: Pretty much.
Antonio: I hated typing. I wrote about 100 articles for The Art of Manliness, for other blogs, for my own blogs, but I can't type. You know, I do it with 2 fingers. And so, I'm like “Well, the video, I can just talk all day.”
Antonio: And it was so easy. And now, I've got a team of writers. They take my videos. They create creek articles from them. They create podcasts from them. They create infographics from them. And yes, so, one video, I can create like 10 pieces of content.
Pat: Tell me more about that like give me an example.
Antonio: So, an example is like I film a video let's say on, you know, what not to wear. If you wear this, you’re gonna get your butt kicked.
Pat: I mentioned that the other day.
Antonio: We start off with the stolen dollar. And you know, from that, I can create an infographic ‘cause there were 5 points that I talked.
5 things not to wear. So, I can create an infographic and then we can slice and dice that infographic and create small pictures for Instagram, which are part 1 of 4, part 2 of 4, part 3 of 4. That video, we then cut down it down to 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and maybe 2 minutes ‘cause normally my video is about 5 to 10 minutes. And then, so we got all these smaller videos, which I can post all over Facebook. I can also do a transcription. I can do a show notes and then we can create detailed articles. And so, from there, you know, 10 pieces of content right there.
Pat: From 1 video.
Antonio: From 1 video.
Pat: How do you decide to do that video?
Antonio: I go in and I look at what's trending. I have a Facebook group of about 50,000 members. I don't do any advertising. I use that group solely for research. I also go out there and I look at what other creators are making that's actually doing well and then I've got my guiding principles of what I wanna stand for, what's important to me. And I make sure that those are all aligned. So, I'm not gonna create something that, yes, it may be trending, but I think is not gonna provide any value to my audience. So, I put all those factors together. I try to create something that will do well traffic wise that again is aligned with my principles and is also possibly— be something that we can monetize. So, there are certain topics which just won't make money, other topics which can get you banned on YouTube. So, you gotta be careful with hitting certain things. But you know, the principles for me are very key. Like when you get in the business, you need to know what you're gonna stand for and what you're not gonna stand for. And you know, I know that there are certain people I don't wanna work with if they’re gonna be difficult, if they don’t have the same values. You know, everyone's got slightly different values. But for me, I always look at— I’ve got a 13-year-old son. I've got 3 daughters. And you know, they're gonna watch my content someday.
Antonio: And everything I put out needs to— You know, you can't bash a certain sex. You can't go off and really— I'm not for shock content. I'm not gonna do pranks because that stuff isn’t me.
Pat: Even though those things are working on platforms.
Antonio: And even though they’ll get millions of views. It's just I don't want any drama. There's enough drama. Everything is positive. Again, talking with John, I said, “You know, I really stopped listening to his podcast because it was a little bit too simple, a little bit too early and I wanted more like a little bit higher end stuff, higher level education.” He's like “Well, that's perfect.” And really a lot of people that listen to John, it’s about motivation.
Antonio: It’s inspiration. And I realize in many ways that's what my channel is about. We never talk down. We’re always like that person that maybe is a higher level. We reach down and just lift people up.
Pat: Yeah. I love that. And you mentioned monetization and like building a business out of taking new stuff.
Pat: What does that look like actually?
Antonio: So now, for us, advertising is very big. And I've got my guys over at Menfluential Media, which was another business we created out of this one. But they basically handle all of our leads ‘cause we reach so many people. You know, a video we put out within 24 hours will get anywhere from 30,000 to sometimes 50,000 people and then over the period of a year could get millions of views. So, advertisers wanna get into that content. We work from shoe companies to 50-dollar toothbrushes, which is like “Oh. Well, who would spend 50 bucks on a toothbrush?” But then you explain. Well, you're going to the dentist. And if you’re not brushing correctly, you’re gonna spend $5,000 to get those teeth replaced or to get veneers as you age.
So, to actually have a toothbrush that has a 2-minute timer, which is how long you should brush your teeth and actually has this like certain things— you put it in and it cleans off all the bacterial, a lot of toothbrushes have fecal matter on them, so it’s like things like that to be able to clean that up. And yeah, it’s like you show people why this is valuable and they end up buying it. But that toothbrush, most people aren’t gonna buy a 50-dollar toothbrush. But after watching my video, 10 mistakes you're making brushing your teeth, they’re like “Well, maybe I'll consider it.” And then we try to direct them to go purchase that. And I only talk about things that I've reviewed, things I actually wear, things I actually use so I can talk about them with integrity.
Pat: Love it. So, both men and women who are watching this right now, what are some high-level strategic tips that you can give in terms of style? Let's go back to that. I think that's something that I admire you for, is just how through that you're able to help us transform our lives. So, somebody who is just kind of disheveled or doesn’t even think very much about what they wear. They just kind of wear what's comfortable.
Pat: How would you recommend that? Okay, let's say maybe they're going to an event like a conference like the one that we're at right now. How might they dress? How might they approach that?
Antonio: Well, first off, they have got to know there's always a dress code whether or not it may— No one’s gonna say there’s a dress code at social media marketing world, but you notice nobody's walking around naked. So, it apparently is one.
Pat: Or in sandals even.
Antonio: Yeah. Well, there are few people walking around.
Pat: Oh, we are in San Diego.
Antonio: Yeah. We are in San Diego. But what message do you wanna send? And I saw there was like someone dressed up as a cartoon character floating around, another person dressed up as a little bit of surfer—
Antonio: But you know, it's about controlling the message. A lot of guys say they’re a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. But you know what? That's a fashion trend. It’s been going on for a while. And so, what you're really telling me is you haven't thought about it. And I get it. It’s okay. I think a lot of people like to themselves and they say that it doesn't matter, but it does. Otherwise, again, they wouldn’t wear anything or they would just wear a paper bag or something. it really comes down to take the time to send the message you wanna send. And for men, it’s so powerful. It's just an easy way to up the ante and for women to be able to know, hey, you know, am I maybe sending a message or can I control it a bit more with certain colors?
So, with this conference, if you're gonna speak, why not go on stage in a nice jacket that's gonna build up your shoulders, slim up your waistline, wear a nice red tie? Red is a power signal. There's a classic study of a guy. He's on video and he's talking anything. He reads the exact same script. He wears a red sweater in one of the videos. The next sweater, everything is the same except it's like a white sweater. There's almost no color. Everyone believed the man in the red sweater. It's a much higher percentage of people agreed and thought he was correct versus the no color sweater. So, red has this powerful effect on being able to convince people that you are competent, that you are in authority. And when you understand that, it’s like why would I not take it— You know, there are so many things you can't control whether or not they have the presentation setup right, whether or not, you know, that speaker before you went on too long. But if you can actually convey strength without saying a word, why would you not take this advantage? It's like playing a basketball game and immediately being offered 10 points to start the game. Why would you not take that?
Pat: Right. That's really interesting. Okay. So, let's talk about the brand and kind of where you want it to go. I mean, it's growing so fast and you're coming out with content every day, is it?
Antonio: Pretty much. Like we put out 4 videos a week. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. I wanna get to 7 days a week, but I don't wanna be a slave to my business. I’m a big fan of Michael Gerber's E-Myth Revisited. You know Sam Carpenter build the system. Sam Carpenter’s got a great book on it.
And Dan Sullivan, strategic coach. All these guys talk about being able to create a company that runs like a nice watch that you can occasionally shake, you wind, but in a sense runs on its own and you just have to occasionally look at it and make sure that the time is correct.
Pat: So, tell me about your typical week like what does that look like for yo work wise?
Antonio: Well, I have an office about 800 meters from my house in a small town of 1,000 people. So, it just shows you can build anything anywhere in the world. And I usually will drive to work because it is freezing cold right now in Wisconsin. You know, it’s 10 below zero or 20 below zero. Plus, I’m gonna be running errands after I get off work, but I will go into the office usually at about 9 or 10 because before that I've been spending a lot of time with my family. We've got 4 young kids. My wife and I home school. I say my wife and I, but she’s a saint and she is an amazing woman. Anyone out there that, you know, they think they can do this alone, they’re wrong. You've gotta have great partners—
Pat: For sure.
Antonio: …business, personal. You know, we make breakfast for the kids. We usually get up not too early, although I do try to get to the gym at 5:30. But you know, the first 3-4 hours a day I'm spending with my kids. Yeah.
Pat: All about that.
Pat: I love that so much. It's amazing. And be able to get that best part of their day with them and they wake up on their own. They're already like almost a year ahead of school because my wife just does a great job with the homeschooling and we call it world school because we also travel quite a bit. But yeah, I may be in the office by 9-10 o’clock in the morning and then I got usually meetings with my team. A lot of people in the Philippines. A lot of people in Ukraine. I've got about 18 people that I work with. And a lot of those people like there it's already evening for them. Mondays, I do come in earlier because of our team meeting at 8 a.m., but I'm usually meeting with my team early to make sure everything is great, although we rarely ever have any fires or anything crazy going on. You know, I try to get some of the most important things done. So, for me, filming video, creating content is very high. Like I said, sponsorships are a big thing for us. But also, you know, by early afternoon, I’ve maybe got a lot of that content created and then I'll be able to do what else I need to be doing, which is actually building relationships, talking with people, engaging with my partners at the Menfluential Media Company. We just had a conference this last weekend. So, I was spending a lot of time on that making sure everything was good to go with the conference and then, you know, the afternoon is going in and just going through systems and making sure that they're optimized.
I mean, there are always things that pop up. Every day is a little bit different. So, I wouldn’t say I’ve got a perfect system there, but it is something I realize I wanna be done by 3-4 o’clock and be able to then go home. My son usually goes to the gym at about 3:30. So, I like to go watch him with the trainer. Again, we're homeschooling. So, we've got a local trainer that we work with and kind of him and a number of other boys. They kind of stay up on their slough, getting ready for football which for years I resisted him playing football, but he ends up, you know, asked me for 3 years straight. I allowed him. He turns out to be like a star running back for the team. So, I’m like “Okay.” Like he's much better than I ever was.
Pat: That’s awesome.
Pat: That’s cool. You wanna continue this conversation outside for a little bit?
Antonio: Sure. Let’s do it. You were asking a question about like how people can brand themselves. Right?
Pat: Yeah. ‘Cause your brand is so great. Real Men, Real Style. And it has just such notoriety in the space that you’re in. Everybody knows it who knows fashion.
Pat: How can you build that? Like how are you able to do that so well?
Antonio: Well, you know, I've been doing this for 10 years and that's what a lot of people forget, is that you don't start and build Rome in a day or build up this empire. You know, I started off just simply writing blog posts for someone that had an audience and I gave him my best and I always— Every single day, you know, I put in that. And I was eager to learn. I had no ego. You know, definitely, I needed to make money, but it was something that I realized, okay, like this guy, Brett McKay, over at The Art of Manliness do a lot more about getting traffic to a blog than I did. And so, I took notes. I talked to him. You know, that was my compensation, is that I got the inside. So, I started writing more on mine and then I realized there's this whole blue ocean with video. Very few people creating a video. So, I was pretty fortunate to get in early, but you can still get in. There's still opportunity. I've seen people grow amazing YouTube channels in just last year by actually being, you know, basically fabulous, you know. So, you can be first, fabulous, or the other F which I’m not gonna say here on this one.
But I always think like there's a way to be first. So, I just met a guy the other day. He's got a YouTube channel and he's talking about for basic style for men over the age of 40. I love it. He niched down and you talk a lot about this. Basically identifying where there’s a burning problem and where people are willing to part with their hard earned money willingly because you're gonna solve that burning problem and then go in there and, you know, dominate for it. And there's always new niches being formed. There are always things changing. The media changes. There's always like some new kid on the block that you can go in and jump in whether it be live video, whether it be Facebook watch, whatever it may be. There's always something new that you can come in and just own and dominate.
Pat: I love that.
Antonio: I think part of it though is, again, for 10 years I have consistently put out style content. I've stayed very focused. Like I go off like— I made a mistake about 7 years ago. I put out a video on reviewing a— It was called like the creative war. It's a portable speaker. My audience hated it and for good reason. Why? Why is a style guy reviewing, you know, this speaker? It just didn't make sense. I thought it was kind of fun, but my audience rejected. So, that told me very clearly I need to stay pretty much style, grooming, business, communication which kind of goes into— So, I stay with these body language things. I realize I can't go too far from my main niche, which is men's style, men's fashion. That's kind of where I keep and I maintain— Like my main flag pulls at and then I do build around it. I always go back to what kind of build me in the space and there are ways of like a company wants to rebrand itself at some point. But for 10 years, I've consistently planted flags around my main base and that just simply became an unassailable in many ways like platform that I was able to build.
Pat: Great. ‘Cause we hear all the time now you’ve gotta build your brand, right, and a lot of people think that that means you need a good logo, right, or you need a good name, but it's much more than a name. Right? Like what beyond the name Real Men, Real Style is the brand?
Antonio: Well, you know, we were walking around the conference. I keep running into people and they know that, you know, I— They’ve told me how they used my videos to dress for the conference to actually become more professional and it's always humbling, but it's also— it reaffirms that they understand that I'm about the professional man and I knew who my avatar was. I mean, it took me awhile to figure it out. I've got many different ones. But he’s this like 42-year-old guy that maybe has had some transition. He's either left the military. He graduated from college. He went through a divorce. Something happened that he changed and he needed to pay attention to his image. So, he comes and he finds my channel. And he is like “Okay, this guy is about professional style.” If he wants the bad boy style, he’ll go see my friend, Erin Reno. He's got an entire business built around that over at Alpha M. Or if he wants young man style, he’ll go to Jose over at Teaching Men's Fashion. If he wants dandy style, he’ll go to Gentlemen’s Gazette, Raphael Schneider.
All these people are my good friends and that's another thing of how I was able to build my brand, is I brought in all these other guys. We created the conference. I kind of became— Because it's my conference, I became the host of the party. And these other people, they help me like further— like I surrounded myself with my peers. I refined my brand because I realized I had to separate myself from these other guys and we’re in an ocean with tons of, you know, fish and they’re ready to be caught, basically people to work with, people to help. And I realized I just need to be really clear with my message. Know who it is and to continue to build around it. And occasionally, we overlap a bit, but oftentimes we’re more than happy to pass on “Hey, this guy wants to work with you, this company is a better fit” now that we work with a lot of sponsorships and stuff like that.
Pat: I'm just so inspired by your success and it’s—
Antonio: Well, thank you.
Pat: …making me—
Antonio: Well, I have to admit. I mean, it was your e-Book. You know, years ago, I think that's how I got up on your radar. I just told you how, yeah, you know, I followed your advice, created an e-Book, The 7 Deadly Style Sins, which people can still download.
Pat: Well, e-Book is the Smart Way. That’s what you read.
Antonio: Yeah. e-Book is the Smart Way. And I created this little e-Book using Microsoft Word. I turned it into a PDF. To this day, it’s still almost the same. I mean, we've had like— I don't know— probably a million people download that e-Book.
Pat: It’s insane.
Antonio: It is crazy.
Pat: I love it.
Antonio: And they happily give me an e-mail address for a solid 47-paged e-Book that teaches them, builds up this trust, and of course lets them know about my courses, my advertising opportunities, my website, my video, my app, my podcast, my other 25 different e-Books, my free courses, my premium courses, but all of these things over a decade have built up based off of starting with something simple as free content. You talked in your story about how you had a website with all that information and then you packaged it up in an e-Book and started to sell it. I did the same thing. I didn't reinvent the wheel. I simply copied what you did and it worked. And it blew me away that people would pay initially $17 for an e-Book that, hey, you can get this for free. It's just simply my best articles brought into an e-Book. Then I upped the price 27, then I upped the price to 47.
Then I felt bad about that because I’m like “For that much money, they should get a course.” So, I took those free articles and added like a little gamification, improved them a bit, end up rewrote them, turn it into a course, which I charge $97, now $197 for something I used to give away for free. And every single day, those people buy it. The checks come in. They purchase it and we’ve created multiple courses, multiple revenue streams. So, it's, like you said, a smart passive income, showed me the power of multiple revenue streams from affiliates to products, multiple products, to multiple advertising streams to having even live events.
And again, the great part is— So, our buddy— you know — he killed the affiliate program and most people— I mean, you tell him that “Oh, your business is gonna lose 50 to 100,000 this year.” It’s like “Oh my gosh.” Like okay, well, I’ve got other revenue streams. It was just 1 of 20 that we were receiving. And now, we've got a new affiliate who in this first month made us 50,000. So, it's like I’m gonna blow it pass for me and I'm very— I mean, I’m happy I had that one. But when you've got 20 different revenue streams and one dies, you just simply “Okay. I’ve gotta go back in here and replant and find other things that I can grow here.”
Pat: Yeah. Dude, congratulations on all of your success.
Antonio: Thank you.
Pat: Thank you so much for the help.
Antonio: I appreciate you, Pat. I mean, freaking phenomenal resource. I love what you do. And I tell people it's like, you know, you've got an amazing trust factor with your people because you bring in amazing smart people and it's always about authenticity and about the real deal for me. You’re putting up your numbers to actually— I mean, you being the real deal to going after haters in the sense of I've gotta like show them that like I’m a real person. I mean, everyone sees how much you love your audience and you care about them. To me, that's the secret to your success. You just love your customers. You love your audience. I mean, you're scared to sometimes turn them into customers even though we wanna give you money for courses, but yeah.
Pat: Well, I mean, that’s the secret. You just care just like you do for your own needs too.
Antonio: Yeah. Yeah.
Pat: So, guys, thank you so much for watching this. Check out Antonio at Real Men, Real Style. All the links are below in the description, in the end card. All the good things. Any final words of advice for people?
Antonio: Get started. I mean, that's the one regret I have, is that I didn't listen to you sooner.
Pat: Awesome. Thanks, man. I appreciate you.
Antonio: You’re welcome.