5 Crucial Business Lessons That I Picked Up From FinCon

I just got back from the financial blogger conference (FINCON for short) and it was an amazing experience! It was my very first blogging conference ever and after having so much fun, I now plan on attending more and possibly even speaking as well.

What’s ironic is that I wasn’t even that excited about FINCON the day before the conference began.

While the sessions looked interesting, I was a bit apprehensive about leaving the kiddos behind for my wife to take care of all by herself (though I’m sure I’ll be paying for this later).

Also, I had to take a few days off and go through the hassle of traveling, booking hotels etc…which I generally hate doing.

But within the first few seconds of walking through the door, I realized the true power of FINCON which I’ll discuss below.

Face To Face Contact Trumps Email Anyday

As soon as I stepped into the hotel, I saw a bunch of people that I’ve been emailing for years but had never ever spoke to face to face before. And by just shaking their hands and having a face to face conversation had a profound effect on my psyche.

It made me realize how lousy a communication method email really is. Hell, even though there are some bloggers that I talk to almost everyday, I always thought of them as just “virtual” friends.

For example, I practically text chat with Miranda Marquit of Planting Money Seeds, Tom Drake of Canadian Finance Blog and Larry Ludwig of Investor Junkie every day. And while I do have a good relationship with these 3 people, it instantly became magnified 10x as soon as I finally spoke to them in person.

When I saw Miranda, she gave me a big hug. As soon as I saw Tom and Larry, we started chatting away like we were old friends at a college reunion. In short, it was awesome! Now that I have met them face to face, I feel a much stronger connection to them now, even more so than before.

The Relationship Is Everything

One thing that I’ve come to realize about blogging or any business for that matter is that the relationship is everything. When you know someone personally, you are a thousand times more likely to go out of your way to help them out.

And the best way to establish or strengthen existing relationships is to hang out while you are all piss drunk (In Miranda’s case, she gets tipsy with water)! Once the alcohol starts flowing and the inhibitions start dropping, it’s the best time to get to know everyone’s true personalities and establish a deep connection.

Here are some guys that I really got to know during the conference and plan on keeping in touch with.

  • David Ning of MoneyNing – David was actually one of the first bloggers that helped me get started with affiliate marketing. It was awesome to finally hang out face to face and talk about family, online business and practically everything else.
  • Greg Go of Wisebread - When I heard Greg get on stage and speak, I knew that I wanted to get to know him better. Had some great conversations about how he grew up, his backstory behind Wisebread and what makes him tick.
  • Jim Wang of Bargaineering - Found out within a few minutes that Jim and I are both from the state of Maryland. We shared stories about our families, “Love Boat” and other details about our upbringing.
  • Ryan Guina of Cash Money Life – Ryan is another one of those guys that helped me out early on and was one of the first bloggers that I met through StumbleUpon. It was great to meet face to face!
  • Sam Dogen of FinancialSamurai – Turns out Sam is just as interesting in person as he is on his blog. This guy is a riot.
  • Pete of Mr Money Mustache – I’m Asian so I can’t grow a stache, but it was great getting to know you and talking about our engineering roots!
  • Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers – Andrew and I had exchanged a few emails back and forth in the past but the communication always fizzled because it was cold. Now that I’ve actually hung out with him in real life, I’ll definitely make it a point to reach out in the future.
  • Jim Yih of Retire Happy Blog – I’d always heard about Jim through Tom but never met him until FinCon. When I saw him, he gave me a bearhug and then treated me out to dinner and gave me one of his books. Pretty cool (except for the bear hug part).
  • Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – This guy has been nothing but helpful since I launched my course. He’s even offered to help me improve my 7 step sales funnel which I’ll be sending him shortly. Can’t wait to get the “This sales funnel sucks” reply from him.
  • Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents – Recently, Jeff has been really helpful in helping me get better with video. If I only had the man’s charisma…
  • Neal Frankle of Wealth Pilgrim – Awesome to finally meet you after all these years!
  • Joe Udo of Retire By Forty – Enjoyed speaking to you and your wife. Congrats on retirement!


I’m sure there are many more of you out there and I’m sorry if I missed you!

Relationship Building Tips

As with any conference, there were many people out there that were networking the right way and the wrong way. First off, I just want to get this out of the way.

No one f-ing cares about your blog.
No one cares about your business either.
People care about getting to know you as a person.


There were a handful of people I met during the course of the conference that just started blabbing away about their blog and content without me even asking. This is an instant turnoff.

If you hand me a business card without me asking, chances are it’s going in the trash. I had a bunch of people ask me for my business card and I didn’t take any with me. Here’s my take. If I’ve established a relationship with you, then I don’t need your business card. I’ll know how to find you and I’ll remember you long after the conference is over. If I want to contact you, I’ll find a way to reach you even without your info.

Use your real name please! There were a few people that I spoke with for over 30 minutes and later found out that they were using their pen name. In fact, I spent a good amount of time helping this one person on how to improve their business and never found out their real name. If I don’t know your name, then how I can establish a close relationship with you?

Good Relationships Will Improve Your Blog And Business

At the conference, there were a bunch of dedicated marketing reps for large finance companies interested in partnering with various bloggers. And their sole job was to get to know finance bloggers personally and to grease the relationship wheels.

Regardless of whether you think these relationships are premeditated or not, these reps are beneficial because they humanize the larger companies. By establishing a dedicated contact within a larger organization, you have access to special deals and can negotiate higher commissions for your affiliate sales. It also doesn’t hurt that most of them are hot.

I was having drinks with Tom Drake at one of the pubs when some hot marketing rep walked up and started talking to him. And I shit you not, he dropped our conversion mid sentence and starting chatting with the rep directly.

Tom, if you are reading this, there’s an unwritten rule.

Bros before ass-filiate revenue! (This is a tweetable)

In fact, just to show that my heart is in the right place, I’m going to post a YouTube video of you dancing at the FinCon party for kicks.

To be fair to Tom, the marketing rep did interrupt our conversation. But this is how I would have handled the situation…

Look you hot blonde marketing chick who I don’t interact with on a regular basis because I’m married with two kids, I was talking to my main man Steve here. So please wait in line!


Btw, if I pulled a “Tom Drake” to anyone at FinCon, I sincerely apologize.

Another conversation that is still fresh in my mind was when Sam Dogen and I were talking to the rep from Tech Bargains. This is my recollection of the conversation.

Yeah…I suppose I could promote tech products on my PERSONAL FINANCE blog. Maybe I could rename my domain to www.FinancialTechSamurai.com. Yeah, that’s it. That might work!


Anyways, since I blog a lot about ecommerce, these rules directly apply to your online store vendors as well. You should make an effort to reach out and meet your store vendors face to face and establish a relationship because it will improve your business. This is especially true with overseas and Chinese vendors. When my wife and I flew out to meet with our vendors, our product quality increased dramatically.

Go Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Everyone is human. And everyone has their own insecurities which is why I was impressed by this girl I met named Kim Olson who blogs at KimOlsonPhotography.com. Basically, she came to the conference without knowing a single person and without having an established blog. That takes guts. Personally, I wouldn’t have the balls to do that because I’m a wuss.

Anyways, even though I’m 99.9% sure that we’ll probably never cross paths again (she and her husband are moving to Alaska), I was very happy to have connected with her at FinCon.

Take Action!

Now that my eyes have been opened to the world of conferences, I highly recommend that everyone go out and start getting to know others in your same industry. You don’t have to have a blog. You don’t have to have an online store. Whatever business you decide to run, it’s important to get your butt out there and get to know other people in your industry.

Especially if you are a blogger, I highly recommend getting to know as many people as possible because you never know who will be your next friend or business partner. Here’s to another FinCon next year!

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57 thoughts on “5 Crucial Business Lessons That I Picked Up From FinCon”

  1. “Pulled a Tom Drake”?!? I think you misread the situation, I’m sure my sentence was done and I was simply developing business relationships. ;)

    It was great meeting you Steve and I’m looking forward to getting you out to FINCON13!

    1. Hey Tom,
      Sorry, I meant the say that you pulled the “Drake maneuver”. Bros before ass-filiates!

  2. Wow! These are some great tips. I wish you could have posted them before FINCON. I screwed up almost every single one of them….except that there are no videos of me dancing. At least I got that one right. I’m going to definitely have to get outside of my comfort zone next year. That’s was my biggest down fall this weekend. Great tips!

    1. Hey Hank,
      Not having dancing videos or any other evidence is key. Forgot about that one!

  3. It’s funny that I ended up chatting with you quite a bit this weekend, Steve, since I remember stumbling upon your site somehow years ago. I never would’ve guessed I’d meet you in person and hang out at FinCon.

    But you’re right, relationships are so important and there’s no substitute to meeting in person. And don’t be too sure you’ll never see me again since I am, after all, a conference-attending enthusiast. And I wouldn’t want to miss you speak next year! :)

    1. Hey Kim,
      Yeah, I had a good time. I hope you don’t change your mind about attending conferences once you see what airfare looks like out of Alaska:P

    2. BTW Kim,

      I apologize but I have a confession to make…

      I used the business card you gave me for the Nexus 7 raffle at one of the cafes. I crossed out your name and wrote mine down since I didn’t have any business cards with me. (yours was the only one in my pocket at the time)

      I’m not proud of it, though after discovering you give out Google voice phone numbers to everyone, I don’t feel so bad now:P

      Anyways, keep in touch.

      1. For shame! You must’ve wanted that Nexus pretty badly, eh? I’ll cut you a little slack, though, because you’re openly admitting it (and you didn’t win with *my* card ;).

      2. Ok, so here’s the thing. I was in a mad rush to fill out “your” card with “my” information that I didn’t think I did a good job of crossing everything out.

        And…we were sitting at the same table eating together when the raffle was taking place. In the back of my mind, I was thinking to myself…What would happen if Kim’s name got called and it was her card with my name on it? Would she share the prize? So what’s your answer?

      3. That is awesome.

      4. That’s awesome Steve!

        See Kim? Men are bad. Don’t believe any of us.

        When the husband says he’s going out with the guys to watch football, know that there is no Tuesday night football!

      5. Hey Sam,
        Speaking of football, you know how the players are always on the phone on the sidelines? I told one of my close girl friends that they all miss their parents so they talk to their moms during the game. An she was like “Wow that’s so sweet!”

  4. Steve, it was so great to meet you! And even more awesome that we could hang out in the airport. Looking forward to seeing you again.

    1. Hey Miranda! Yeah I had a blast…And now that I know some of your deepest darkest secrets, I have some additional leverage. Muah hahaha

  5. Man, why do you have to set the bar so high on Fincon post wraps!?! I haven’t even gotten started and I’m too tired thinking about it!

    Let’s go get some dim sum at least once a year somewhere in the South Bay yeah? We will avoid the VIP rooms this time. But if you insist, I guess I will support you.

    1. Hey Sam,
      There’s no need to come down to the southbay. We can come up to SF as well. Shall we go to Yank Sing? That’s one of my favorite places.

      1. Cool! Yank Me at the Rincon Center location is a great place. Will plan on it. I’ll bring a date.

        PS, totally forgot about the conversation we had w/ Tech Bargains. Thanks for the reminder. Will go register that domain now!

  6. I’m now totally worried that I handed you my business card without you asking for it. I enjoyed talking toddler tantrums with you, though, and feel a little better about my LO’s epic meltdowns. Also, I somehow managed to miss that you’re from Maryland–as I’m a recovering Baltimoron. I can go Down the Ocean with the best of em, even though I’ve lived in landlocked Midwestern states since 2001.

    1. Hey Emily,
      I remember our conversation well. That story about you as a child was hilarious!

  7. It was awesome meeting you Steve. I had a lot of fun hanging out.

    I was reading your post, all the comments etc and I am now associating a face with everybody. It’s a strange but good feeling, but I wonder if it’s really the alcohol that’s STILL in my body causing all this?!?

  8. Hey Steve,

    Maybe you can host a conference for online bloggers & online business owners here in the Bay Area too. Why flying all the way to Denver? I’ll be the first one to attend, would love to meet you after all these blogs that I have read for the past couple years. =]

    - Vinh D

    1. Hey Vinh
      Hosting a conference is a lot of work. I have no idea how PT does it. Perhaps back in my younger days, I would have taken it on as a challenge but these days my two kids take up most of my time and energy.

  9. Informative and entertaining post! Hopefully FinCon13 for me! Hilarious take on pulling a “Drake” and the marketing reps with great personalities. Will have to visit your blog more often!

    1. Hey Buck,
      I’m hoping that the phrase “Pulling a Drake” catches on so that we can all make fun of Tom at next year’s FINCON.

  10. Steve – it was great hanging with you and David all night at Baker’s party. Although, I heard we missed out on Luke/Flexo dancing since the three of us never moved from that table! The Tom Drake story cracks me up. I lol’ed when I heard it in person, and again when I read it here. I’m still chuckling. To be totally fair to Tom, that rep was really really cute.

    1. BTW, I totally agree with you said in this post. Especially #1 (face to face trumps email) and #2 (relationships being key)… I remember having those same epiphanies after fincon11. People I emailed/tweeted/facebooked went from virtual “friends” to actual friends.

      1. BTW Greg,
        I’m going to be sending you an email shortly. I assume that the email address in your comment is the one you use?

    2. Seriously, I heard we missed out on a lot of crazy stuff. But you can’t talk on the dance floor and being drunk is the best time to extract valuable information. You probably don’t even remember what you told me do you:) Don’t worry, I’ll post it online later.

      1. Yes I remember the secrets Greg shared. I wouldn’t miss them for anything! :D

      2. Uh oh. Actually, I don’t remember what I said. Was it any good? Now I’m curious about drunk Greg’s thoughts too! Haha.

      3. I was semi-sober by the time I got to you so I have a good memory. We talked about picking up girls, your sex life etc… Standard stuff. I was supposed to be your wing man which I would have been happy to be.

        Ringing any bells? Ning, can you corroborate my story?

      4. I was totally sober so I remember quite a bit of it too. Let’s not give Greg a hard time now. He probably shared a bit too much but he’s a friend and that’s all I’m going to say in public.

      5. All I can say is that you’ve got some messed up thoughts. Crazy stuff man. Crazy.

    3. I was going to hang out with you guys but I was so tired I was afraid I’d fall asleep sitting on that stool. Looks like I missed out!

      1. That’s unfortunate. People are open books when they are drunk. Now that we’ll probably be talking fairly often, I’m sure I’ll discover something I can hold over you.

  11. Hey Steve, I agree, sharing a beer face to face tells you much more about a person than emails ever could.

    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you in Denver. Guess I should have hung out by the bar instead of dancing all night at Lodo’s.

    There were a lot of people I wanted to connect with but didn’t get a chance, next year!

    1. Hey Ben,
      I have no clue how I could have missed meeting you in Denver. Given the condition of my voice, I thought that I’d spoken to practically everyone. But I definitely know who you are and we’ll hook up next year.

  12. It was a pleasure meeting you, Steve. You deserve the reward for Blogger Who Most Closely Resembles His Online Photo.

    I’m not sure if you ever made it to the dance floor on Saturday night (or if you spent the entire evening nerding it up with Greg Go and David Ning), but next year, I wanna see some dance moves.

    1. What up Shawanda,

      The pleasure was all mine. I was just looking at your photo on your about page and I don’t think I would have recognized you based on it. You’re much better looking in person. True, I probably should have joined you on the dance floor but my objective was to nerd it up with people I didn’t know that well. Can’t nerd it up and dance at the same time. You sure you’ll be able to handle my moves?

  13. “Bros before ass-filiates!”

    Lol – brilliant.

    It was good to (briefly) meet you in Denver.

    1. Hey Mike,
      Yeah, it was good meeting you too though I felt like I was shouting at you the entire time since it was loud. Kind of weird hanging out a club and talking to a bunch of guys. There’s no way the PF blogosphere is 55% male 45% female. Didn’t notice that many females at all.

      1. Haha – yeah, I think a higher percentage of the ladies went to bed early.

        I shouldn’t talk though – Saturday night was the only night I made it past 10:30.

  14. Don’t forget! The real conference started even BEFORE we got to the hotel! Had I known that you and JD would be in the shuttle with me, I would have had at least had a notepad and pen handy ;) Great meeting you, and I’m so glad to have found your blog!

    1. Of course! How could I forget our conversation in the super shuttle! BTW, I found your presentation to be one of the more useful ones at the conference. I had been going about HARO all wrong. Please to meet you and see you next year.

  15. Wow, I really hope that I didn’t give you a business card!

    1. Actually, you did give me a business card. But that’s not what I’m bitter about. I’m bitter that you stole my Nexus 7 right out from under me. I was robbed! Robbed I say!

      1. Dang, Kathleen got the Nexus?! The lucky people always win!

  16. It was great to meet you too, Steve. I love the tips, especially #1. I feel as though I know many people in the blogging world because I’ve e-mailed them or chatted on the phone with them for years. It’s easy to go right up to those folks in person and hit it off right away. That makes it easier to take the personal or business relationship to the next level very quickly. In-person meetings can be even more valuable when you meet someone you know as an acquaintance, but might not have an established relationship with. It’s much easier to move things along when you can chat face to face.

    I hope you make it out to FINCON next year! If so, then I’ll see you there!

  17. Let he who would not chat up the hot blonde cast the first stone! I’m with you, Tom.

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