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Generation-E Stories: Adam McLane, The Youth Cartel

Margot Leong Customer Marketer, Gusto 

Generation-E is an entrepreneur who had a vision of something — and the gumption to build it. These business owners refuse to live in the shadow of large corporations; they carve their own path. Most importantly, they never settle. They’re always looking to hire the best people, create the best products, and use the best tools to manage their business.

We’re thrilled to spotlight these intrepid entrepreneurs for our Generation-E series this month, including Adam McLane of The Youth Cartel.

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Adam McLane has been passionate about youth ministry for most of his life. As a partner at The Youth Cartel (along with Mark Oestreicher), they provide resources (publishing 10 books every year), training, and coaching for church youth workers to advance youth ministry in new ways.

The Youth Cartel is helping to drive innovation in the industry — and they love every moment of it.

Shaking up the publishing industry

One of the things Adam’s most proud of? Shaking up the paradigm for the publishing industry. Unlike other publishers, they’ve found success right out of the gate with their business model.

“We’re approaching publishing in a completely different way,” said Adam. “The traditional publishing model hasn’t changed since the 17th century. For modern-day publishing, the gamble is that you’re going to sign 100 books and one will make money that pays for the other 99.”

The Youth Cartel has taken a road less travelled: as publishers, they don’t want sales to be in the only game. They want to be more connected to the content they distribute. As a result, this helps drive increased sales by properly incentivizing their authors.

“Publishers usually give advances to authors for the books they write,” he said. “The problem with advances is that they’re rewards for completing the project, not for selling it.”

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The authors who publish through The Youth Cartel get a commission instead of an advance and are encouraged to market their own books. As a result, the royalty rates are more than double the industry standard.

“We’re also in love with these books because we’ve invested in them personally,” said Adam. “They’re not just another one of the 100 authors we work with.”

With that kind of forward thinking, coupled with compelling titles like The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers and A Woman in Youth Ministry, it’s no wonder that The Youth Cartel also utilizes modern, cloud tools to help grow their business.

Tools that help The Youth Cartel thrive

After Adam joined The Youth Cartel, he ended up taking on many of the operational roles — and like many business owners before him, he sometimes felt as though he was operating in the dark.

“For me, the biggest struggle as an entrepreneur was always wondering, ‘Am I doing X, Y, or Z correctly?’ I don’t have an MBA and there’s only so many friends you can ask for advice,” he said.

At first, they hired a professional bookkeeper, but realized they wanted more visibility into their financials. This year, they’ve switched to cloud-based software only, including Freshbooks, an accounting solution for small businesses which integrates with Gusto.

“The thing that we like about Gusto is that it brought us community — we’re in this with a bunch of other small businesses that are all trying to figure out the same things. Gusto is super approachable, so if I ever have a question, I’ll get an answer right away.”

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Integrations like Gusto and Freshbooks are very important to Adam’s business. “It’s fantastic when my software can talk to each other. Anytime I can eliminate a step, that’s fantastic for me,” he said. “The idea that I can process payroll along with my accounting is awesome; it makes tracking everything a lot easier. Anytime there’s an API connection, you want to try and use that.”

The Youth Cartel also utilizes modern tools like Basecamp, Zendesk, Dropbox and Google Apps.

Since The Youth Cartel doesn’t have a physical office space, Adam says it’s mandatory that the software they use lives in the cloud and is mobile-friendly.

“My business partner and I travel the world from the Dominican Republic to Canada to France. Literally, I’ve processed payroll walking through airports. I don’t have time to be tied to something that’s on a server in my building. I need to know that if I’m in Guatemala, I can grab a secure connection and process payroll,” he said.

Thanks to Adam for sharing his story with us! He and Marko truly embody the spirit of modern-day entrepreneurs who love what they do.

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Updated: April 14, 2019

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