Not Everyone Can Be a CEO

“My goal is to be the CEO one day.”

I have heard this line a thousand times when I ask people what their end game is. The problem is it’s very different from what CEOs say when you ask them how they got there. You always hear some variation of this quote from great leaders.

“I never really set out to be a ‘CEO’ of a company.”

Sure CEOs are natural born leaders. Yes, they love being in charge. And they would rather not work at all than work for someone else.

The difference is subtle but telling between those that crave power and those that can’t avoid having power given to them.

Those that set out to be “in charge” will rarely find their way to the C-Suite, no matter how hard they try. And more often than not, they will despise executives above them in the corporate ladder instead of trying to observe and learn from them.

These types of people want to set the pace through their words. They see the CEO as someone who simply barks orders. They don’t see the painstaking work and strategy that goes on behind the scenes.

Those that set out to cast vision, be vulnerable, and mentor others will generally find themselves with more authority and responsibility as their career progresses.

More often than not, These people want to work exceptionally hard and set the pace for others by their actions. They appreciate the good and the bad of a leader and embrace the sacrifices needed to lead.

Ultimately, it’s pretty easy to tell who is going to be in charge one day. It’s the people that care more about results than about ego. Those are actually the people that end up as great CEOs.

Why I Quit LinkedIn and Started a Monthly Newsletter Instead

After 10 years of the hustle and grind, you can say I had “made it.”

Fortune 500 companies. Mergers and acquisitions. Running some of the largest consumer websites in the world. Making the top of the Inc. 5,000 list.

Everyone talks about getting “there”—to your goal, the top of your own personal, proverbial ladder. But I’ve noticed, nobody really talks about what happens once you are there.

Burnout, exhaustion, and to top it all off you find that you don’t have much privacy anymore. Everyone knows your story.

So, for my own mental health, I decided to do something kinda crazy… 

I closed my LinkedIn account.

Instead, I exported my LinkedIn contacts, filtered the ones that were most important to me—the ones I wanted to stay in contact with, and created a monthly newsletter.

Five months in, I can easily say I have had an amazing experience and an incredible response. Lately, I’ve found myself looking back over the last few emails and I’ve noticed a few things that have inspired me to maybe leave my Linked-In account closed…

Digital Privacy

My biggest realization was that my entire life has been on display and up for sale to the highest bidder for the last 10 years on LinkedIn. That might have been something I was comfortable with for a season, but at some point, I found that I just wanted more privacy.

Ever since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, I have seen more advertising on the platform and even more violations of my privacy. Not the least of which is LinkedIn faking genuine messages through their sponsored “InMail” product.

I was getting roughly 10 inbox messages and 25 connection requests per day. 99% of them were spam. The freedom in only getting direct communication from a select few people I care about connecting with is refreshing, to stay the least. It frees up space in my mind to actually have a personal, impactful connection with people I know will impact me in return.

Powerful Networking

You would be surprised to find out I have had three times the number of job offers since leaving LinkedIn and 10 times the number of incredible conversations.

Now, I’m not currently looking for a job, but I know that is the reason why many people are on LinkedIn. What I can tell you is that your next job will probably come from someone you already know, not a social network. A personal email does so much more to create a profound impact and build relationships than an impersonal social post—even if it’s a direct message.

The powerful thing about email is that if someone forwards your email, the other person is more likely to see it. Social media is now controlled by algorithms that largely surpass organic content—they even timeout and disappear. When you send a story link on Instagram or Facebook thinking the content will help someone grow or inspire something, that link will eventually timeout and the person you initially send the message to may never see it. That opportunity to impact someone’s life or business vanishes.

Adding Value

The big problem I find with social media is that so much of what is being posted online does not actually add value. Especially in this pandemic, there’s been an influx of new content—people creating content simply for entertainment rather than for growth. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment—we’re all struggling right now and need a smile every now and then—but where is the actual value, the personal connection?

The newsletter allows me to process how I can add something of value to someone else’s life. It’s not posting to hundreds of thousands of people at once, it’s the initial gambit of a 1::1 conversation with another person. I’m aware of both the importance of that action and the intrinsic value of the place that I take up in someone else’s inbox.

Genuine Conversations

Do you remember the old days when Facebook was new and LinkedIn was a novelty? At the advent of social media most platforms started out as a series of incredible back-and-forth conversations. They were an online facilitation of a never-ending networking event. In recent years, with the influx of the influencer culture, social media as a whole has devolved into quick sound bites, sophisticated algorithms, and, unfortunately, trolls. 

The followers I had? I don’t own their time or even a place on their feed. Those highly-coveted spots are controlled by an algorithm that only maybe understands what they want and is regulated by fickle elements completely outside of their control or mine.

However, every month with the newsletter presents an opportunity to begin an incredible two-way conversation with each individual person my network—all in the privacy of my inbox. I don’t have an algorithm that suppresses my content to only 10% of my followers—100% of the folks I send the email to get a chance to read it. Every single person on my list gets the opportunity to hear what I have to say—and hopefully experience a little growth in the process. 

That inbox real estate is golden to me. A golden opportunity to have a personal conversation about something more important than what I ate for lunch or wore to work today—that adds no value to your day or your business. I would much rather have an impactful conversation that allows you to learn something new, experience a new viewpoint, and take that growth to your business and to the marketplace.

Mindful Thinking

Posting to social media has largely become reactive. For most, posting is rooted in emotions and reacting to current events. The Black Lives Matter movement and the Coronavirus pandemic both showed this in one very large, very reactive capsule. In the midst of two congruent media frenzies, so many people ran headlong into saying something tone-deaf, inappropriate, insensitive, and flat out racist because they didn’t stop to think.

With social media, there is a level of anonymity that seems to go hand-in-hand with a post (even if there is a name attached to an account). There’s a kind of distance that seems to give people the license to say whatever they want without accepting the responsibility for what they say. Recent events have disputed that and many people found themselves immediately held accountable for the things they said.

The monthly newsletter forces me to be mindful and proactive. To gather my thoughts before posting anything, and to edit and re-edit to make sure I’m saying not just what I want to say, but what will actually add to the conversation at hand and benefit my readers who aren’t just my audience—they’re my friends.

My June newsletter about how to have vulnerable conversations in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement allowed me to have more candid conversations than I would ever be able to on a social media platform. I saw more engagement than ever before because people needed to have a conversation about how they felt and ask questions from someone who was willing to listen and ready to talk, not hear yet another sound byte.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’ve found not only value, I’ve found new friends and more opportunities than ever before—not just in business, but personally. More opportunities to mentor, more opportunities to have impactful conversations, all from one email.

Now, I’m not saying you should do this, but…maybe you should? 

What I am saying is that it’s time for a social media evaluation of your own. What are you putting into the world? What could change in your life if you removed this one thing from your plate?

How much time would you free up? How much more would you be able to do? How many more purposeful, personally engaging conversations would you be able to have?

If this post is a surprise to you because you’ve enjoyed my blog and found value in my posts, I’m grateful for your time and I’m so sorry you’ll miss it. However, you can sign up to receive The Inner Circle where I’ll be from now on. I promise to only drop into your inbox once a month with valuable thoughts about business, investing, and career growth. 

If you haven’t guessed it by this post, more than anything, I value deep relationships. The newsletter lets us have a deeper conversation that leads to meaningful connections. I’d love for this to be the start of a conversation between you and me, so I’ll see you in The Inner Circle.

Slack is Afraid of Microsoft (and Headed in the Wrong Direction)


I’ve been your #1 fan since day one. An investor since your IPO. A power user since we adopted it Aha! and used it to become one of the fastest growing remote companies in the world (before remote was cool).

Over the last year I had accumulated a decent position in Slack for a personal investor. Sure, you probably don’t know I exist, but a week ago you punched me in the gut.

When I heard that you had filed a formal complaint for anti-competitive behavior for Microsoft, it was the day your company started down a different path.

You may end up growing to a $100B market cap company. You may end up selling out to Salesforce, Google, or hect even Microsoft. But it doesn’t change the fact that you lost me as a fan this week.

Microsoft was afraid of Slack. Whether you know it or not. It’s part of what made your company so easy to support. You have a superior product.

But here’s what companies with superior products do. Win. They don’t complain that their opponent isn’t playing fair. And whether you intended to or not, that’s how you came across this week.

I understand your vision to unite apps. And that Microsoft’s compliance is critical to that eco-system. But now you are telling me that without the governments help you cannot complete that vision.

What do you think Microsoft wants to do? Crush you. If I had to guess, and I have absolutely no inside knowledge of this, I’m guessing Microsoft tried to invest in or acquire Slack at some point.

Or, they are just pissed from your ad in the New York Times. What do you think would happen? You spurned them and now they called their bluff. If you were really so dependent on them, you should not have poked the bear. That is Sun Tzu 101. You were outmatched and decided to attack head on.

Today when every single other tech stock I own was up, Slack was down. Because you signaled your defeat. You signaled desperation. You signaled you were afraid. You signaled that as the underdog you need the governments help to win.

I would argue that your desperation (and loss of investors like me) will likely do far more damage to moral, talent retention, and talent acquisition, than the complaint would ever win.

I sold my Slack for the same reason I don’t own a ton of Walmart stock. Walmart only becomes the dominate e-commerce player of Amazon gets hit with anti-trust. And I don’t like the idea of 2nd place winning due to a technicality.

It’s ok though. I didn’t lose nearly as much money these last few days as I would have last week. Because I sold the majority of my Slack stock the day I heard about the EU complaint.

I have worked hard my entire life to compete. That’s what competitors do. You just became a complainer. It punched me in the gut. And after I got my breath back, I sold most of my shares.

Thanks for reading,

Keith Brown

How to Have Vulnerable Conversations at Work

The year 2020 will forever be remembered as a year of change in business. Both the medical and social levels demand a necessary shift in the way we function as businesses.

The lines between work and home have vanished for everyone. Under quarantine, we went from a separate home and work life to everything happening under the same roof. There is no longer any illusion of what life is like outside of work. We’ve gotten a glimpse into the reality of life for so many other people. Now, more than ever, leaning into love seems to be the only viable step forward.

Whatever the conversation at hand in your workplace, it is important to begin with self-education. Beyond that, start having transparent conversations. But those conversations only come in an atmosphere of vulnerability.

But, especially in the political climate of the summer, the question often comes down to how? How do we even begin to talk to one another? And how do we facilitate these conversations in offices and digital meeting spaces across the country and around the world?

You create an atmosphere of vulnerability.

Why vulnerability?

Being vulnerable involves feeling safe because when you don’t feel safe, you would rather protect yourself than risk opening up. Rather than transparency, unsafe environments create conversations that devolve into defensive stances and accusations. You’ve probably seen a conversation escalate once or twice, especially on social media.

Safety generally happens in circles of people you trust. That’s part of the disconnect right now in so many organizations. On any team, you hopefully have different groups of people from different backgrounds and all walks of life. The problem is that there is a real lack of trust between backgrounds, races, and lifestyles. Because there is no trust, many companies speak in platitudes or try and fail to make politically correct statements.

We can often misinterpret our own closed-off nature as safety and think of vulnerability as a risk—one many leaders might think of as unnecessary.

The insidious undertone of questions is: Why take the risk of a vulnerable conversation when you can just be silent and let “political” issues pass in time? Why speak up and “rock the boat” when you can go on about your day? Why not leave everyone safe in their isolated thoughts? But that line of thinking is why systemic inequality and racism still exist.

Aesop said, “Our insignificance is often the cause of our safety.”

Food for thought…

If you are playing it safe, you are more than likely insignificant in the conversation at hand. If you want to have a significant impact, you have to be willing to take a few risks.

The truth is, you cannot actually build trust and thereby a safe environment without vulnerability. A proverb says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6). It is better when someone hurts you in an open conversation than if they flattered you through lies.

Tough conversations tend to go best when you don’t think of them as difficult conversations. Having an open dialogue is a normal and healthy thing but to some, vulnerable conversation may be new.

Facilitating Candid Conversations

The best, most productive teams, are happy teams. And happy teams only truly happen when team members feel safe and acknowledged in their work environment. And that only comes about in an atmosphere where vulnerability is accepted and valued.

The one thing we can all recognize is the difficulty of understanding what it means to create a vulnerable space where candid conversation can happen organically if you’re new to the idea. This idea is bigger than “watercooler” talk about the game on Sunday or the latest episode of the team’s favorite show. I am talking about conversations that impact the atmosphere of your office and change the dynamics of your team for the better.

So I pulled together a few of the thoughts that have helped me facilitate possibly vulnerable conversations over the years. I hope these tips help you navigate difficult or tough conversations with your team.

How to have vulnerable conversations at work:

  1. Listen first. 
    People are used to being told what to do at work, but that doesn’t work well with candid conversations. Those are a two-way street. 
  2. Ask how you can help
    Don’t assume you know what to do, or how to help someone. Before speaking, take a moment and think through what you want to say. 

    People will understand your “what” easier once they understand your “why.” Be real, be human, and share who you are. Asking how you can help should develop naturally out of the conversation. As people see your why, they’ll understand your motivation for wanting to help and appreciate you more because of it.
  3. Reflect
    Sometimes the best insights will happen later, as you reflect on yourself and those around you. You may never fully understand what someone else is experiencing, but it’s often enough to admit that you don’t fully understand, but you are trying.
  4. Support employees and allow them to be themselves
    Provide a safe environment and encourage questions and open dialogue. When the national atmosphere is thick with emotion, then it might, understandably, lead to some emotional responses at work. Be careful to not belittle or patronize teammates if they get emotional.
  5. Talk candidly, even about difficult topics. 
    If you know your team has areas where you’ve failed, don’t hide from it. Call it out those areas with transparency and share the steps you are taking to improve it. Many team members feel like they cannot criticize a company for fear of being ostracized. When leadership shares constructive criticism of their own company, then it creates an environment conducive to feedback. In one conversation, you open the door to a candid conversation.
  6. Confront your own bias. 
    We all have lenses we view life through. For many leaders and company owners, it’s an unintentional lens of white or even male privilege. How do you cure this? Try not to hire, promote, and fire based on your own personality or who you get along with. This mindset creates homogenous teams and echo chambers. If no one on your team is challenging you, you and your team will never grow past a certain point.
  7. Don’t force it. 
    Some employees may not like discussing personal or difficult issues at work because some personal topics are often rooted in trauma. Be careful to never put anyone on the spot or force the conversation. Just make sure you are doing what you can to make the environment safe.
  8. Set realistic goals. 
    If you don’t have an open and transparent culture, change should not be your goal overnight. Set actionable steps to get there by starting with identifying the root issues preventing a positive and safe culture. 

The point is to show your employees that you and your company are comfortable with and open to change. Maybe it is certain leaders or even the organizational structure that keeps your team from having a candid conversation. Take measured steps to change your organization from the top down. That action shows your team members that you are not only aware that change needs to happen, you’re willing to do something about it. 

That willingness speaks volumes about how much you care about your team. It tells your people how much you want to see them and your company grow through tough conversations.

How To Rescue Vulnerable Conversations

Here’s the thing… The best, most productive teams, are teams that are happy to be around their co-workers, happy to come into work, and happy working for you… Those kinds of happy teams only occur when team members feel safe and acknowledged in their work environment. The only way that happens is when vulnerability is not only accepted but when it is valued.

Now, let’s be real, we’re all human. Sometimes, our mouths run away with our words before our minds have a chance to catch up and a vulnerable conversation turns heated before it’s too late. In a heated discussion, it can be easy to forget we are talking to people with feelings, wounds, and trauma of their own.

So, let’s set the scene… your goal was to create an atmosphere that supports vulnerable conversations within your team but in the process, a conversation quickly got out of hand. Maybe someone misheard something. Maybe someone said something else without regard for another person’s perspective. Or, maybe the conversation was ugly from the start? Don’t worry, there are ways to save a conversation that’s already gone south and reestablish an atmosphere of safety and vulnerability with your team.

What to do if a tough conversation goes (or has already gone) south:

  1. Take a moment to pause. Like we already talked about, sometimes, there are moments in national history that are more emotional for some than others. Regardless of what has come before or what comes after such a moment, people are bound to get emotional. If or when that happens, be willing to take a step back from a conversation.
  2. Level up your thinking. If you need to, walk away gracefully for a moment and gather your thoughts, examine any bias, and calm down. If you sense any team members getting emotional, you may also gracefully encourage them to do the same and you can return to the conversation when they are ready. The point is to not get defensive and to see the bigger picture. If you are the leader, you are responsible for diplomacy and de-escalating the situation rather than escalating it.
    What this sounds like: “Let’s take a breather…” “I need a moment to gather my thoughts…” “Let’s come back to this in a few minutes…”
  3. Listen more than you talk. As the conversation progresses, focus on actively listening in the moment and not just listening to make a good argument. A well-articulated opinion might sound great, but it is not always the most important issue on the table, nor is it always helpful.
  4. Be willing to forgive. Maybe a conversation went south before you could course correct. Maybe you’ve been a silent witness to inequalities and/or systemic bias in your workplace and waited too long to say anything at all. Forgive yourself. Forgive anyone who might hold that against you with grace. The path forward through where we are now to where we could be in a decade is paved with forgiveness.
  5. Focus on the future and hope. Your team might, understandably, be concerned with the history of how certain things have been handled. If you know their concerns are both true and valid, listen, acknowledge, and ask for forgiveness. Then, turn the conversation to how those things can be addressed and fixed in the future. The conversation is a good start, but actions will always speak volumes about your willingness to change your organization for the safety and wellbeing of your team.

The most important thing in deescalating a conversation is being aware of when a situation requires intervention before it becomes untenable. Learn to recognize the signs of an escalating conversation (power stances, clenching fists or jaws, sudden changes of body language or tone, and disruptive behavior) even in yourself. Be ready to measure your response and stay calm, listen to concerns, and shift the conversation to the future and to hope. 

As a leader in your organization, it is critical that you remember you set the tone for the future. Every tough conversation is an opportunity to further establish what that future looks like. You can freeze and watch a conversation escalate, or you can recognize your position is one that the future of your company hinges on and encourage growth, candid conversation, and vulnerability in your team. 

No matter what the world is facing, I believe one thing we can all do is start having candid conversations. First with ourselves, and then with others. No matter how hard they are, where we stand on political lines, or what our race or gender is, we can have those hard conversations, and then maybe we’ll start to heal our nation. 

Facilitating Vulnerable Conversations with Remote Teams

The past few days we’ve been talking about facilitating vulnerable and candid conversations in the workplace. I wanted to have this conversation in this space as an evergreen conversation but the context is too relevant now. The conversation is too poignant. We’ve been talking about having candid conversations with respect to the Black Lives Matter movement and its importance this year but the tips we’ve been discussion are absolutely transferrable to any topic. 

We talked about how to set the atmosphere for these conversations and facilitate them. We even talked about how to rescue them when they go south.

But the truth of the moment is that COVID-19 has most of us still safe at home even as summer breaks over the world. So how do you take those tips and translate them into the remote model most people are still working from?

While we’ve been safe at home, the national political climate has imploded multiple times this year alone, mostly for the better. Necessary conversations are happening on social media, across phone lines, through screens and glass windows, across balconies and over yard fences. 

But somehow the conversation hasn’t happened on your team yet… Everyone is keeping their thoughts to themselves, but you can feel the tension rising…

Address it now.

Not via email. That’s appropriate for your customers or clients who might be too numerous to all bring together though that’s certainly an option.

If you’ve avoided it until now, share why. Open your heart and set the stage and an example for the rest of the team’s vulnerability.

Leverage tools for transparency.

Unlike office environments, remote teams can no longer rely on those watercooler moments to facilitate candid, organic conversation. Rather, because we are all at home, leaders must be direct and intentional about creating the opportunities for these moments. 

Make a plan for a conversation with your team and put it on the schedule. As you prepare, make sure your company’s vision and culture are clear and communicated. This can be handled in private conversations between leadership, then communicated to the larger team. 

Pull your team together for a round table discussion on Zoom or Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams or Messenger Rooms on Facebook—whatever application you use, make sure it is face to face. The most important thing in candid conversations that require vulnerability on the part of any person or group of people is that face-to-face connection.

As wonderful as the English language is, so much is lost in translation when communicating with just words. The nuance of emotion cannot be properly expressed with text so an email communication, text conversation, or Slack thread won’t do the conversation justice.

Set expectations for the future. 

Recognize that the moment we’re in right now won’t last forever. Eventually, we will get back to the office and those water cooler conversations can resume.

Until then, it’s important to set the stage for where your team goes from here. If the product of the conversation is that the culture of the company needs to change, be upfront about that and willing to listen to suggestions from your team. Then, again, after a private conversation within leadership, communicate those changes with clarity.

Be the light on your team and set an example for those around you. Because from this moment forward, it is up to each of us, leadership and teams alike to spark change in our own ways. In a leadership role, it is your greatest responsibility to create an atmosphere of hope and change. Do that well and your team will follow—even from their own homes.


If you enjoyed the post, I am so glad! This is an adaptation of what we discussed in this month’s edition of The Inner Circle, a monthly newsletter I send.

Something about me: more than anything, I value deep relationships. If you found value in this post, I would love it if you’d join us in The Inner Circle. The newsletter lets us have a deeper conversation that leads to meaningful connections. I promise to only drop into your inbox once a month with valuable thoughts about business, investing, and career growth.

What Law School Taught Me about Learning

There was a time when law school was my future. It was all I thought about day and night. From researching the top legal fields, to understanding how tiers of law school impacted my future earning capability, I had it all down.

There was one problem, a degree plan. There is no undergraduate degree plan for law school. No certified required courses. No recommendation from the Bar Association. And that drove me crazy.

I wanted to be told the best way to prepare. I wanted the easy way out. So I created my own solution. Instead of buying up all the LSAT prep books I could find, I created my own undergraduate degree plan.

It was a blend of what I thought made a great lawyer. It was part communications part political science, with a little bit of psychology and business as well.

I felt great. I finally had my guide to success. Then everything changed. I launched a website my junior year for fun that ended up gaining meaningful traction. Nearly a million people visited the site in it’s first year, and my love for technology and digital strategy was born.

But here’s what I learned. All that law school prep that I did translated to my future career. I was not actually preparing to be an attorney, I was preparing to be a well-rounded individual.

This is why learning is powerful. It goes with you no matter what twists and turns life may take. So, instead of preparing for a specific future, prepare to learn.

Why Entrepreneurs Struggle with Empathy

I live in the future. Much like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, I feel like I’ve already lived it in some way. No, I do not own a time machine. It has more to do with the way I am.

You see, one of my strengths is vision. I can just as easily imagine what the future holds in 10 years as I can imagine what the next hour of my life might look like. And that causes problems.

And thus brings me to my epiphany. Relationships are not built in the future. They are build by taking life one day at a time. By walking hand in hand with those around us that we love.

This is why entrepreneurs often struggle with empathy. They are living a dual life. Imaging all the alternate realities and possible scenarios ahead. So, cut Marty a break. And as for you Marty, try to live a little more in 1985.

25 Google ZMOT Quotes — The Zero Moment of Truth

What is the Zero Moment of Truth? Google defines it as the following.

The ZMOT, or Zero Moment of Truth, is a new decision-making moment that takes place a hundred million times a day on mobile phones, laptops and wire devices of all kinds. It’s a moment where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world.

I think there is a lot that marketers and entrepreneurs can take away from Google’s study.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and sayings from Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) literature.

25 ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) Quotes

  1. I believe consumers will tell us what they want and need in their lives, if only we will listen anew every day.
  2. It’s up to us to join the conversation at this new moment where decisions are being made, and to provide the information that shoppers naturally crave, in all the ways that they crave it.
  3. If you care about helping shoppers explore, dream and find what they’re looking for – in short, if you’re passionate about the future of marketing.
  4. When consumers hear about a product today, their first reaction is ‘Let me search online for it.’ And so they go on journey of discovery: about a product, a service, an issue, an opportunity. Today you are not behind your competition. You are not behind the technology. You are behind your consumer.
  5. ZMOT is that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying.
  6. 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase, 79% of consumers now say they use a smart-phone to help with shopping, and 83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them.
  7. The best brands consistently win two moments of truth. The first moment occurs at the store shelf, when a consumer decides whether to buy one brand or another. The second occurs at home, when they use the brand – and is delighted, or isn’t.
  8. It’s the power to help shoppers make great decisions and to help companies tell their stories at the moment of highest impact.
  9. ZMOT turns small wins into huge ones – and potentially big wins into letdowns – millions of times a day, around the clock.
  10. The buying decision journey has changed. ZMOT is a vital new addition to the classic three-step process of stimulus, shelf, experience.
  11. What was once a message is now a conversation. Shoppers today find and share their own information about products, in their own way, on their own time.
  12. Word of mouth is stronger than ever. For the first time in human history, word of mouth is a digitally archived medium.
  13. No MOT is too small. If consumers will do research online for houses and health care, they’ll also do it for Band-Aids and ballpoint pens.
  14. Engagement with the customer today isn’t just pouring a message down on their head and hoping they get wet.
  15. Dad still watches football and he still sees your TV commercial. But now he grabs his laptop off the coffee table and searches for “digital camera reviews”. Before the game ends – and before he gets to the store shelf – he’s ready to make decision.
  16. American households now spend as much time online as they do watching TV. Yet in 2010, only about 15% of media ad budget money was spent online. Online decision-making is skyrocketing; online marketing budgets aren’t.
  17. Change your marketing mental model to include ZMOT, and you stand to gain a very big competitive advantage. Because you’ll reach those millions of shoppers who are making decisions before they enter the store.
  18. The average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010. Yes, that number nearly doubled in one year.
  19. 84% of shoppers said that ZMOT shapes their decisions. It’s now just as important as stimulus (76%) and FMOT (77%) in moving consumers from undecided to decided.
  20. That exception is now the rule. There are no barriers to access. Today’s shoppers carry access in their pockets. They create their own consumer guides a million times a minute with reviews, tweets, blogs, social network posts and videos for products of all kinds.
  21. We’re entering a new era of reciprocity. We now have the engage people in a way that’s useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that.
  22. This is the new digital shelf. Consumers arrive there, 24 hours a day, ready to engage. They’re anybody’s to win or lose.
  23. Shoppers don’t always move through a funnel, narrowing their choices as they go; at ZMOT, they can actually widen their choices. The more they learn, the more options they consider.
  24. If you’re available at the Zero Moment of Truth, your customers will find you at the very moment they’re thinking about buying, and also when they’re thinking about thinking about buying.
  25. There are two heroes: the consumer who does the research, and the marketer who is smart enough to be there at the moment the shopper is looking for them.

How Not to Be Another Broke Entrepreneur

There are tons of absolutely broke dreamers out there, and hopefully I’ve moved in the right direction over the years. I have definitely learned a few things along the way, and I’d like to share a few in hopes of saving at least one person from wasting at least one hour of their life.

Ideas, ideas, and more ideas, if you are creative then you already know exactly what I’m talking about. The problem is how to manage them, and which ones get top priority. I have always figured if something is going to work out, it won’t take long to do so. If you have a revolutionary new product and the first 100 people hate it, chances are the next 100 will too.

The definition of insanity is doing something the same way over and over again yet expecting a different result. Sure somethings just take time, but that’s the exception and not the rule.

Scratch your own itch

I love reading the story of William Hoover, inventor of the famous Hoover vacuum cleaner. He had problems breathing and wanted to solve them. So, he devoted part of his life to building a better vacuum cleaner. Years later, his legacy is seen in the thousands of Hoover vacuums around the world.

Set goals

If you think giving a new idea 6 months is a fair shake, then give it a go for 6 months and see how it turns out. Maybe something happened beyond your control, maybe circumstances had you distracted, then sure take that into account. Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t think you just need to hold out. That “just around the corner” mentality can cause years of wasted time you could be spending elsewhere. Be realistic about it and get outside opinions before you invest more time than you originally planned.

Diversify your capital

There was a season in my life where I thought I could just get rich quick and not have a backup plan, those days are gone. Don’t be so prideful about a single “greatest idea ever” that you don’t work, and don’t save your money. That idea may be awesome, but treat it like anything else. Decide a time frame, plan out a budget, and stick to the plan. No quitting your day job to “go for broke”, because that’s exactly what you will end up being if you get cocky about it.

Stop assuming the win

Maybe you were meant to work a 9-5 and need to learn to be content with the cards dealt to you. The majority of “entrepreneurs” I talk to are so sure they are going to hit the jackpot and live out the rest of their days on the beach somewhere. I really question people’s motives who simply want to get rich, because that’s really not what makes a successful entrepreneur. It’s that deep desire to be creative, overcome obstacles, and think outside the box that makes everything come together.

Have fun

If you aren’t creating businesses that you love, if you aren’t doing things you are passionate about, it’s going to make it really hard to succeed. You’ll always be trying to get away with the bare minimum, and spend your nights reading up on the latest “get rich quick” schemes.

Success is a road, and for most a long and painful one. Ask yourself what you want out of life, and why you want it. And please, don’t be another broke entrepreneur.

Social Media Risks for Your Business and Your Life

I used to advertise on facebook quite regularly. I could monitor the return on every dollar invested, and it was a great time to invest in buying fans. But lately a few things have changed and I stopped most of my facebook advertising.

Why? The reason is pretty simple. I wasn’t getting the same ROI, and it wasn’t worth it just to have the bragging rights of “oh I have X number of fans”. The secret was out, and everybody was looking to tap into this social media tidal wave. That means it got more expensive to get less results.

Beware of Social Success Stories

As a facebook advertiser, I get emails every so often touting success stories from businesses around the world. A recent email was listed as a marketing case study. The only objective listed was, “Harnessing the passion of global enthusiasts and sports fans“.

They go on to talk about increased fans on their facebook page, and the overwhelming amount of submissions for their campaign during the world cup.

Am I a purest for asking what in the world the ROI was on that campaign? I don’t care about being blown away, but how about some hard numbers? Before and after sales in key regions, new revenue generation, increased mentions on the web, anything?

Not even close. The final solution listed was, “Bringing soccer fans closer to the game through a range of interactive features on the fan page“.

Every time I hear of a social media success story it’s all about how many fans they have. I understand building fans is important, but doesn’t anybody care what those fans mean for the bottom line?

Having a large fan base in incredibly powerful, so I don’t want to discount that as a return on your investment. But like I said, is it too much to ask for some other metrics before a company shells out millions on a social media campaign?

Stop Using Every Social Sharing Button

It’s all about the user  experience and getting that great “social” traffic right? But do we really need to slap social sharing buttons on everything like we would Tabasco sauce on some 3 week old breakfast. I could provide a thousand more equally stunning analogous reasons, but let’s leave it at that.

My point will be brief today, and I hope to save you some page load time, and your users some waiting around. If you actively monitor what kinds of content is being shared, and the methods by the majority of content is being shared, you will find a few things to be true.

Without even knowing what kind of site you have, I can tell you the majority of shares will still be facebook and twitter. Perhaps a few will stumble, digg, reddit, sphinn,or some of the other auxiliary sites, but that’s the bulk of it. Why make your users scan through a myriad of icons just to find the few they are going to use on a regular basis?

Do you really think Mr. Wong deserves the same code weight on your page as your facebook share this button? Not to bag on Mr. Wong, cause you know I love the name, but if you are adding widget buttons manually you gotta look at this from an ROI perspective. You are adding an extra request on your page for that button, it’s taking a split second longer for that button to load, and your user is slightly more annoyed. Was it worth it tiger?

Visually you may think it looks really nice to have 200 different sharing options, but the “average web user” could care less. There is not one size fits all sharing, and you can’t get anything out of the box and expect a non-custom application to jive in your environment. 

Web usability is like a bulletin board, and you are still thinking it’s art. People need to fly in, scan the post, quickly find the share button of their choice, and be done with it.This is a common sense lesson in usability, but it all revolves around testing.

Experiment and follow your user base, and then customize your website around them. Don’t target tech savvy bloggers who like to use Google buzz if your fan base doesn’t even tweet. The fact is most people have only adopted tweet this and facebook share/like, so until the evidence supports otherwise, stick with what you know is worth it.

Invest In Your Own Company First

I am always amazed at a corporations ability to transfer “ownership”. To me it’s the secret of so many of the giants in the business world today. Look at facebook, for example, and you’ll quickly see my point. It’s “your facebook page”, or the “Lebron James fan page”. But you don’t own your profile and neither does King James, and you certainly don’t see any revenue off it. Has facebook cut you a check yet?

Every day you login to your facebook account and go to work for Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the facebook team. You build content, invite your friends to join, and submit pictures and movies that facebook owns the second you upload them. Every time you engage with another person on facebook, they visit one more page filled with those lovely facebook ads on the right hand rail.

Every time a company sends people to their facebook fan page, they are sending millions of impressions (and dollars) into the facebook coffers. Are they sharing this money with you? Not that I am aware of.

For the most part I don’t think we have anything to complain about, but it is mind boggling to me how facebook gets away with not cutting celeb and large corporate fan pages at least a revenue share deal. Maybe they do and I just haven’t gotten that special invitation yet, but I certainly haven’t heard of it.

Sure facebook is a free service, so what rights do we have to demand anything? Well none if we don’t ask for them. But I think facebook would be hard pressed to have Lebron shut down his fan page and take those millions of monthly ad impressions offline.

I’m no celebrity, but if I told Lady Gaga how much money their fan page is making facebook, I know they would want a piece of that pie. After all it’s their brand, their name, that drew those millions of fans, not Mark Zuckerberg…

You Might Not Need Social Media for Your Business

Social Media was one of the buzz words in 2010, and it stands to reason that 2011 will be much the same. Still, you shouldn’t have a social media campaign just to have one. Over and over people think that having a facebook or a twitter account is their gateway to thousands of new visitors.

Then after awhile they give up thinking that they just don’t get social media. The bottom line is that some markets just don’t need social media. Did I just commit blasphemy? Everybody needs a facebook fan page right?

I would say that every business needs to be involved in social, but from a reputation management standpoint. For some markets facebook isn’t going to make or break your business, but it will sure help your customers connect with you if they have a problem. I love the ability to use twitter to keep people updated on recent happenings, but I definitely don’t expect it to be my main source of traffic.

If you have a product that is viral or revolutionary, by all means tweet it and watch social at it’s best. But for most of the people I work with that just isn’t the case. They are in a competitive market, and are just looking for more ways to get new customers. For that I’d say Google is still your best source of traffic.

The problem with most social platforms is they tend to be a replacement to the web. Don’t believe me? Create a facebook fan page for a website and watch how many people leave that fan page to interact on the website. The majority of consumers on facebook are comfortable with it, and see no reason to leave to do their commenting, liking, and sharing.

After all can you blame them? Is there anything they can do on your website that they can’t also do on facebook? Well I can think of a few things like purchasing products, downloading software, and reading articles. But those are very specific things that all need to be taken into consideration before you dive head first into social media.

Social Media Harms Your Personal Life

I was up late last night reading blogs of entrepreneurs, and one thing absolutely rang true when I heard it. “If you want to be successful in life, it won’t be doing what everyone else is doing, because most people aren’t successful.”

That being said the average amount of time the world spends on facebook continues to grow leaps and bounds every month, the interaction levels absolutely crush everything else on the web. I simply can’t continue to waste away on Facebook like everyone else, there is too much to be done, and I consider each moment I am alive to be a privilege.

Twitter keeps me updated with news, tech blogs challenge me to learn new information, 1 on 1 conversations encourage me. Facebook keeps me updated on the vacation habits and insecurities of what I consider to be total strangers. Are there people I actually care about on facebook? Absolutely, but I value those people because we interact outside of the social network.

There is no beginning and no end to the surfing, and it is extremely easy to find yourself wasting hours a night doing absolutely nothing in particular. Rarely do people go on facebook to accomplish a goal, and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Sure endless surfing is a problem the web has in general, but at least the random surfer model outside facebook yields a greater change of useful content.

Beware of Ambient Awareness

I am tired of ambient awareness, a term coined by many who have researched the new social relationships of the 21st century. People have abandoned close personal relationships in favor of being “aware” of hundreds of people. Facebook has trained us to crave ambient awareness, we are now conditioned to want to know what hundreds of people are up to at any given moment. It’s a method of control and stability, quite frankly one that is too addicting for most.

I don’t work for free, at least not when I have so many other things that require my attention. The next time to you log in to facebook check out the right hand side of your screen. See those ads? Every time a friend of yours visits your page and clicks that add facebook just made money off you. Not that other sites don’t make money off your time, but facebook wants to make money off your life. Just a thought.

I don’t have one circle of friends, and you don’t either. We don’t have hundreds of people we share equal amounts of information with, we have many different circles. Facebook encourages you to share your entire life one circle of friends via video, images, notes, text updates, etc. Recent updates allow you to segment who sees what, which begs the question why be friends with those other people at all?

Own Your Life and Your Media

I want to own my life. You don’t own the pictures you post to facebook, and you certainly don’t own your facebook friends. At any given moment any given thing could happen. You download your entire digital life to facebook, and now they own it 100%. That kind of dependence on anything outside of electricity isn’t comforting. Facebook owns your page, your content, and your life when you are logged on. You do realize your facebook page isn’t really yours right? No way Jose.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what I get out of it. I continue to put things into two categories in life, business and pleasure. Facebook certainly isn’t business, at least not my personal account. I manage several fan pages for websites I run, and those will keep right on going.

As far as pleasure, I can think of plenty of things I would rather do with my time. I tried for years to at least provide my friends on facebook something of value, even though the majority of them never returned the favor.

A study released some interesting facts about the kinds of content that gets shared on facebook. The most shared word was “stupid”, and “hot”. Another study also found the more intelligent the status update, the less likely it was to get shared. The more syllables, the higher the reading level involved, the faster it got buried. Not that I expect all social content to be newsworthy, but come on, tell me something I don’t know.

This is my personal choice, and one that I am excited to finally make. You don’t have to follow in my footsteps, but at least it’s some food for thought. I challenge you to budget your time, examine your friendships, and ask yourself where your headed in life. If nothing else think about whether or not you really need to be on facebook all those hours a week.

An Open Letter to This Years Graduating Class

I remember going to work with my dad growing up. From the first time I saw his degree hanging on his office wall I began adding things up in my mind, and more importantly in my spirit. I don’t think I realized how much weight I was putting on that piece of paper all those years.

But in putting that moment of graduation on a pedestal, I was setting myself up for years of disappointment after graduation. Instead of telling you congrats (which you deserve), I’m going to write you the letter I wish I would have gotten back in college. I’m going to say everything that your parents, friends, and your teachers probably won’t tell you. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s the truth. And with that in mind, I give you…

To This Year’s Graduates

First off, congrats for making it through college alive. There were so many reasons you could have given up, quit, and done other things. You have learned a lot, but very little of it will help you in the next phase of your life. I know you went to college to prepare you for a job, but very few of you will actually use your degree from this point on.

What it will do is allow you is apply for jobs that other people can’t, demand a slightly higher salary, and in general make more money over the course of your life. There are so many great things about college, so hear me loud and clear, you did the right thing.

But you know all that already, you’ve been told it your entire life. We went to college because it entitled us to a better life. Sadly, that’s where most of the problems start. Do you feel like you deserve a high paying job? I know I did.

Here’s the problem, this isn’t the same economy your parents graduated in. This isn’t the same world your teachers in college grew up in. I will rarely say don’t take advice from your elders, but this is one subject where they simply can’t help us.

If you grew up in a time where water was always plentiful, how would you be able to tell someone how to live through a drought? I graduated in one of the worst job droughts in recent history. My parents had no idea what I was going through.

You need a job, and it’s time to go to work regardless of where it is. You have a college degree, but might have to work at a job that doesn’t even need a degree. Your first feeling the day you start working at a job you feel under qualified for can be pretty rough. I worked at 3 or 4 jobs after college that didn’t even need a degree. Hect, at times I thought about going back to jobs I had during school.

Doubt and regret can be powerful depressants if left unchecked. Surround yourself with positive people!

Having a job that doesn’t require a degree after college isn’t the end of the world. We just aren’t prepared for it mentally. As college grads we are ready for $65,000 a year, full benefits, and a brand new car. Here’s the facts, in all, 17 million Americans with college degrees are working at jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree. Nearly half of all college graduates are working at a job not requiring a degree.

The fact that you don’t have your dream job is bad enough, but we didn’t just promise ourselves a job now did we? The college degree means so much more than it should. We expect the job, and the job affords us the luxury of the other great american dream, buying your first house.

When you end up not making what you thought you would, you end up living where you thought you’d never be again. Of the members of the class of 2011, 85% of you will have to move back in with their parents after you graduate.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to realize that college isn’t the end of tunnel. You studied hard, and you will reap the fruit of your labor in the right timing. It just might not be when the moment you walk across the stage and get your diploma.

Now the real learning begins. So what should you look for in a job? Find someone who will do more than just pay you, find a mentor who will educate you. College prepared you to learn, something you will do the rest of your life. The real currency of your future isn’t your salary, it’s wisdom.

When I graduated all I saw was salary, and that is the worst possible way to evaluate the right job. The right job isn’t the one that pays the most, it’s the one that will teach and train you the most. The best job is the one with the potential for you to grow as the company grows. Preferably with stock options along the way!

Just a little secret about this. If you love what you do, stay humble, and surround yourself with people that value wisdom, you usually end up making a lot of money anyways.

I’ll say this one more time loud and clear. It’s not time to go crazy impressing your friends. I know you really want to show that your degree meant something, but that’s pride. You earned your degree, and nobody can take it away from you. That’s the value of it. Ten dollars an hour or a hundred thousand a year, your degree is still worth the same.

Want a big dose of humility? The median starting salary for those who graduated from four-year degree programs in 2010 was $27,000.

This is a brain race, it’s no longer warm and fuzzy. If you hate education, lifelong learning will be a forced march. If you stop learning, you will become unemployed and unemployable very quickly.

Keep learning, never stop learning, and surround yourself with people that enjoy learning. See a common theme yet?

This isn’t just about you. At the risk of sounding too patriotic, America needs our help as young people. There are now almost 46 million people in the United States on food stamps. We are official $14,000,000,000,000 in debt, although the actual number is likely much higher. Get your finances in order, if you don’t believe me ask Dave Ramsey.

It’s time to get your head out of the clouds and get to work. I know you think that 4 years of college will now reward you with a lifetime of relaxing at a 9-5 cushy job, but me at 23, your sadly mistaken. The good news? If you read this, and took it to heart, you are now 3 years ahead of where I was at your age.

Want to know where you will be in 5 years? Ask yourself what your 5 closest friends will be doing in 5 years. If you think they will be doing pretty much the same thing, with pretty much the same problems, so will you.

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile Using These Simple Marketing Hacks

If there was an SEO anonymous support group I’d introduce myself like this.

My name is Keith, and I have a problem. Anything that can be reverse engineered and optimized, I attempt to manipulate for fun, personal growth, or financial gain.

So naturally when LinkedIn introduced endorsements, I was all about it. The end game: getting a large amount of quality endorsements across areas I consider my strengths.

So take a journey in problem solving with me, and keep your optimization hat on. Here’s some practical Search Engine Marketing strategy you can use to increase endorsements and views on your LinkedIn profile.

Avoid Skill Stuffing

The first thing I ruled out was adding the maximum amount of skills to my profile. I call this skill stuffing because it reminds me of 2007, MySpace, and keyword stuffing. We all know how those last two worked out.

When it comes to selecting skills it should be something done with careful research. If friends and co-workers don’t immediately recognize you as an expert in that field, don’t list it as an expertise.

Avoid Spam on Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is going to assume that you are being honest with your skills, and serve those up to your network of friends and co-workers when they view your profile. While it’s a proven fact that most people lie on their resume, stretching the truth on LinkedIn won’t get you very far with endorsements.

Do The Keyword Research

The foundation of Search Engine Marketing is based on a process of data analysis and research. Now those same skills should be cultivated even more carefully based on the Endorsements display engine.

Run your current skills through a keyword tool and see what comes up. Try using popular and niche descriptions of your skill sets to see which convert the best.

LinkedIn Profile Keyword Research

Understand that when it comes to endorsements, an endorsement by someone in your network equals a conversion. The goal here is to provide better industry skills, remove the bad matches, and ultimately increase daily conversions.

Get More LinkedIn Endorsements

Add skills only after a process of examining your background, doing the keyword research, and adding only the results which match your reputation on LinkedIn.

Just like clicks and conversions are measured in paid search, you should keep track of the number of people endorsing your skills on LinkedIn. Be sure to go through every few months and remove and add skills, just like you would test different ad copy in PPC.

Gain More LinkedIn Recommendations

Remove skills that have few or no endorsements and add better ones in their place. Think of removing skills as adding negative keywords to a PPC campaign, it will be another tactic that improves your conversions over time.

It’s hard to think about removing a skill based solely on how others interpret you, but in the end who better to judge than a competent jury full of your industry peers?

Each time LinkedIn serves up the endorsements widget, you are competing with four other people for that conversion. You don’t have to have the best possible match, just the best out of four.

If you have already gone through the steps above, then you will only be showing your strongest hand each time. Otherwise it will be left up to to chance and you’ll be wasting valuable free impressions (more on this later).

Endorsements Are Advertisements

It doesn’t matter what you think you are a rock star at, how does your network interpret you as a subject matter expert? This is similar to having a conversation with a client where you say, “I know how you want to target your niche, but the data supports a different conclusion.”

I review profiles of other Keith Brown on LinkedIn, to see how poor targeting will negatively affect the percentage of people who endorse you. When someone visits your profile they are presented with an opportunity to endorse you for a variety of skills.

If some are good matches and some are bad, chances are they will begin to remove skills and if you’re lucky endorse you for one or two.

Suggested Skill Endorsements

If someone is going to go through the trouble of removing more than a few skills from the widget, they might as well abandon the whole process altogether. You want the endorsement to make sense and be a natural extension of that person’s visit to your profile page.

LinkedIn Profile Optimization Tips

LinkedIn is basically giving away free impressions if you do this right. How, by serving up these suggestions free of charge? So, take advantage of the offer while it lasts. Like all good things this will likely come to an end soon, and you’ll be asked to pay for prime placement across your network.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that LinkedIn knows how much engagement endorsements have gotten, and they will look to monetize that traction more in 2013. It won’t take long given the emphasis on rolling out more improvements to their premium profile pages.

Understand LinkedIn’s Algorithm

Think about your core skills as a huge key to your visibility on LinkedIn, and if their endorsement engine isn’t already thinking, it soon will be. The skills that get clicks will get served up more, and the rich just get richer. Now is the time to tackle your profile updates, and specifically take advantage of this new feature while LinkedIn is giving you all this free exposure.

If you follow the LinkedIn blog, you’ll understand the amazing things they are doing with data. By seeing this engine through the eyes of a search engine marketer, you can be one step ahead and look forward to lots of recommendations, endorsements, and a strong LinkedIn presence in 2013.

Unlearn Your College MBA and Make a Dent in the Universe

David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals in Chicago, says that planning is guessing, and for a start-up, the focus must be on today and not on tomorrow. He argues that constraints–fiscal, temporal, or otherwise–drive innovation and effective problem-solving. 

The most important thing, Hansson believes, is to make a dent in the universe with your company.

In other words, “You Have to Unlearn Your MBA.” After spending 3 years at business school, Hansson estimates that 96.7% of what he learned at the Copenhagen Business School has no impact on what he does today as a partner at 37signals. MBA students need to readjust and recalibrate their thinking away from heavy management theories towards building a product and pleasing a customer.

Here are a few of my key takeaways.

Planning is Educated Guessing

Long-term planning, strategic planning, tactical planning — all of these types of planning are really funny for a start-up. The punch line, is that a start-up doesn’t even know if it will be doing business in five years, let alone five months.

This type of planning reminds me of when I took the LSAT my junior year of college. I remember coming across the logic games section of the LSAT and wondering how in the world you actually solved these problems. It was a trick question, you really don’t solve any of them. You simply do your best to make an educated guess at the highest probability answer.

More predictable planning suits a stable business, like McDonald’s in Northern Illinois. But a new business in a new industry has no clue what it will need long-term. In fact, he adds, most decisions for a start-up are incredibly temporary. What does matter more than planning? Simply starting.

Venture Capital is Not the Answer

Venture Capital is one of the most harmful things for a new business. A sudden windfall of money provides start-ups with a false sense of security. VC-injected companies often lose the urgency to create a sustainable, profitable product. These companies often become addicted to venture capital funding, requiring round after round of financing.

Don’t Play with Other People’s Money

The key problem with venture capital remains simple: You’re playing with other people’s money. Using venture capital removes the accountability that’s inherent when an entrepreneurs use their own money.

When it’s your own money, he continues, you want to make more of it faster, so you don’t just put out a product without a price. The urgency you get from spending and making your own money is the most powerful driving force for an entrepreneur.

Playing it Small Doesn’t Mean not Making Money

Skewed expectations present a major risk when accepting venture capital. Most venture capitalists expect to make a lot of money, and they expect the company they help to become billion-dollar ventures. This type of risk is comparable to putting all of your money on red five in a game of roulette.

When you build a business that earns a million dollars per year, you’re taking a more calculated risk, analogous to that of a skilled poker player who steadily builds up his winnings. “The fact of the matter is that a million dollars is a lot of money when it goes straight into your bank account,” asserts Hansson.

Great Ideas Derive from Well-Rested Minds

Being a workaholic is no guarantee of success. When you’re overworked, you can’t think creatively. A great idea comes from a well-rested mind. You’ll never outdo Microsoft or Google; they will always have more resources than start-ups. But an entrepreneur must realize that constraints are your friend. Having some limitations will force you to think differently than your competition.

Overnight Success Does Not Exist

“Nobody is an overnight success,” claims David. When some product or company suddenly appears out of nowhere, it usually arrives out of 10 years worth of work. Accelerated growth is a charade, it takes time to develop a sustainable, profitable company.

A Small Business Can Be a Highly Profitable Company

Asked to clarify the difference between a small business and a scalable business that hopes to earn a billion dollars, David says they are the same thing. Scalable means there isn’t a direct correlation between profit and employee count: “I can earn 5 million dollars and not hire five people.”

Many large companies give the impressions that that there is a connection — i.e., for every $500,000 earned, a company must hire two people — so smaller companies wrongly focus on organizational charts and meetings.

Out-Teach Your Competition

A startup will never have the resources to outspend a Google or a Microsoft in promoting itself. “We’re trying to build an audience; we’re not just trying to have customers.” Through blogs, lectures, seminars and other teachable moments, you create a following of the company that may not use the product today. But at some point, these people will either buy our product or recommend it to someone who will. In the end, all sustainable businesses are built by word of mouth.

You can view the entire video here: Unlearn Your MBA