In March 2015 Ryan Michler owned a successful financial planning company. His clients were medical professionals. He earned a comfortable living.
“I was making great money,” Michler told me. “But I felt like something was missing. I thought there were opportunities to help men. And that’s when I started.”
What he started was Order of Man, a website, podcast, Facebook group, and paid membership to help men become better financial stewards, better fathers and husbands, and better leaders.
I spoke recently with Michler on launching the business and growing the community, among other topics. What follows is our entire audio conversation and a transcript, edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us yourself.
Ryan Michler: I’m the founder of Order of Man, which is an organization centered around giving men the tools, conversations, frameworks, and resources to be more capable. We’re helping males step up in their families, their businesses, their communities — wherever it is they’re showing up. We launched in 2015.
Until recently, I was doing all roles, from podcast host to editor to website developer to social media guy. But over the past year, I’ve tried to bring in other people who are better equipped to deal with that stuff. It frees up my time to focus on the ideas and the vision and the direction — all the higher-level thinking. I don’t have employees, but I do have quite a few contractors who handle different tasks, such as podcast editing, social media content, YouTube videos, things like that.
And then I have a fairly sizable crew that helps me administer our digital membership called the Iron Council. So we have team leaders there — a network manager, an event coordinator. I’ve tried to outsource a lot of stuff. It’s been a good change. Challenging but good.
Bandholz: What’s driving revenue?
Michler: The primary revenue source is the Iron Council. We have over 500 members. I started that a little over four years ago with a single educational course. That course developed and turned into this digital fraternity. But then we have guys asking for merchandise or hats or shirts. The store now generates 10 to 15 percent of our revenue. Roughly 70 percent is from memberships to the Iron Council. And then we offer one-off courses and two to four live events per year.
Bandholz: What about sponsorships on your podcast?
Michler: Yes, I do that, but it’s not a material revenue generator. I don’t focus on it. I’d much rather share what we have available internally.
Bandholz: Do you advertise your podcast to drive listeners?
Michler: I’ve never seriously advertised. The most I’ve ever done is boosting Facebook and Instagram posts. Our largest social media channel is our closed Facebook group with roughly 68,000 members. So between the podcast and that group, we generate a lot of excitement and awareness about what we’re doing.
Bandholz: Is your Facebook group free?
Michler: Yes. It’s free, exclusively for men. And all they have to do is request access. We have a few minor barriers to make sure that these are guys who are motivated to contribute in a meaningful way. And then we’d have a moderator team that keeps all participants focused.
Bandholz: Talk about what it takes to build a successful Facebook group.
Michler: The difficulty wasn’t in the early days, surprisingly. When it was 500 guys or a thousand guys or even 5,000 guys, it was much easier to manage than now. There are a lot of negative attitudes. The discussions quite often get out of hand. There’s some disrespect and crude and rash behavior. We get rid of those people. But if members have a healthy, respectful disagreement, by all means let’s do it.
We don’t allow posting of memes in the group. We minimize the self-promotional stuff. You can’t share links to your own sites and programs. Again, we want respectful, meaningful conversations.
Bandholz: Let’s go back to the early days, five years ago. Was it a side hustle for you then?
Michler: It was. I started in March 2015. I owned a financial planning practice then. I was making great money, but I felt like something was missing. So I started a podcast for that financial planning practice. It was called “Wealth Anatomy.” It was geared towards providing financial advice for medical professionals. And I realized I love podcasting.
I thought there were opportunities here to help men. And that’s when I started. I went about seven months or so before I made my first dollar. Initially, I was going to have ads on the website and the podcast. But I realized quickly that I didn’t have the audience. And I’m glad it worked out that way. At roughly seven months, my wife and I had a conversation. She said, “I appreciate that you’re doing this Order of Man thing, but you’re not making any money, and it’s detracting from your practice, which is taking away from household income. So you should probably scale back or maybe find a way to make a little money doing it.”
And I told her something like, “Well, I’m not scaling back. If anything, I’m doubling down on this thing.” I had listened to a podcast, which suggested making a course. I’m like, “Perfect. I’ll do a course.” I released it in roughly October or November of 2015. It was called the Iron Council. It was available for 12 men. That’s it. And over 12 weeks we were going to discuss six topics. We had a weekly telephone call, an assignment per topic, and a private Facebook group — all focused on the Iron Council membership.
I charged $100 for it and sold out overnight. I didn’t know what to do next. So that first month, October, November, we made $1,200. And then two-thirds of the way through, the guys are asking, “What are we doing after this is over?” I hadn’t even thought about it. I still had my income from the financial planning practice. But I decided to open up the Iron Council and turn it more into a membership. And we ramped that up to about a hundred members, fairly quickly, when we opened it up at the beginning of 2016.
And it has been on fire ever since. I ended up selling my financial planning practice. This is all I’ve done for the last three years or so.
Bandholz: The podcast and the group have been a big catalyst for building your community. You also wrote a book, “Sovereignty: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Men.” Can you talk about that?
Michler: I wrote the book as another medium to get my message out to people who wouldn’t hear it via the podcast or be in the Facebook group. It was access to a whole new group of men. People who read books are motivated, ambitious, and want to learn and grow. But the thing that I didn’t realize in writing the book is that it helped me crystallize and solidify my message.
It also gave me an added level of credibility with my community.
Bandholz: Where can people learn more about you?