Foundr Magazine Podcast | Learn From Successful Founders & Proven Entrepreneurs, The Ultimate StartUp Podcast For Business (general)

In business, in life, and even behind the wheel of his actual race car, Mike Dillard goes from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye.

In stark contrast to his calm voice and introverted nature, Dillard is a pioneer willing to crash through boundaries and challenge common wisdom. He just prefers to do it through the written word, rather than grand speeches or face-to-face encounters.

The core principle driving Dillard’s pedal-to-the-metal attitude? He deeply believes in the power of one person to change their community, their industry, and maybe even the world. “I approach life with a core belief that anyone can accomplish anything,” his website bio reads. “That not only can one man or woman make a difference, but that it’s one man or woman who always makes the difference.”

Key Takeaways

  • How Dillard leveraged his introverted nature to find success in an extrovert-driven world
  • The biggest crash of Dillard’s career, which cost him $12 million in revenue overnight
  • The one thing Dillard needs to build a business (it has nothing to do with money)
  • The mission and purpose that has guided Dillard (through the bad times) to build the business of his dreams
Direct download: FP204_Mike_Dillard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm AEST

Dmitry Dragilev has a typical entrepreneurial story, but maybe a little more extreme. Bored in his dead-end, corporate job, he was fearful of ending up like his older, unsatisfied peers. One day, Dragilev read in a magazine about what was going on in Silicon Valley, and up and quit.

He sold everything he owned, hopped in his car, and made his way to California. Equipped only with a knowledge of coding and a drive to succeed, Dragilev had made a decision that changed the rest of his life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dragilev's unique growth marketing approach for building sustainable, consistent traffic
  • How to build quality relationships with journalists to increase your brand's exposure
  • How Dragilev helped two companies skyrocket sales with two PR strategies
  • The quick website fix that resulted in a two-second improvement in user session time
Direct download: FP203_Dmitry_Dragilev.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am AEST

The Comeback Kid

In 2013, Eric Siu bought a failing SEO agency for two dollars. Today, he’s built it into a digital marketing powerhouse that serves giants of the tech industry.

These days, Eric Siu rubs elbows with the internet marketing elite, hosting a popular podcast with online guru Neil Patel, and leading the successful agency Single Grain, which boasts clients like Uber, Amazon, and Salesforce.

But go back about six years, and Eric Siu was just a 25-year-old new hire entrusted with the monumental task of saving a tanking company.

“A month into it, the CEO pulls me aside,” Siu recalls, “and he's like, ‘Eric, you know, 48 people, their families, they're riding on your shoulders right now, and if you can't hit numbers in the next month, we're gonna have to let you go.’”

Siu had taken a job leading the marketing for education startup Treehouse. He loved the product and the team, but he had no idea the revenues were stagnant. It hadn’t hit its numbers goals in the last two years, and when Siu came onboard, the company had only five or six months of cash left in the bank.

“I was like, ‘Oh, damn. We're gonna go down, and it's me that's kind of responsible for revenue growth because it's a subscription-based product.’”

After seeing some traction on Treehouse’s YouTube account, Siu took a gamble and put all the company’s budget into YouTube advertising. This was 2012, and Facebook ads hadn’t quite taken off. And for Treehouse, which teaches video courses on coding and web design, YouTube was a natural fit. Siu began bidding on promising keywords, and the team created an inspirational video ad inspired by Apple’s slick aesthetic.

“We just started cranking out a bunch of sign-ups that way,” Siu says. “The price point wasn't that bad, and so things started to really blow up there.”

From there, Siu fired their PR agency and started working with one that was paid for performance. By the time he left Treehouse, Siu says he’d helped take the company from about 500 new subscribers a month to between 3,500 and 4,000. Now, Treehouse sees $15 million in annual revenue, according to a March 2018 Mixergy interview with CEO Ryan Carson. “So they're fantastic now,” Siu says. “They're just building on top of everything that they're doing.”

That may sound like an exceptional comeback, but it was only the beginning for Siu. From there he embarked on a career of getting into tight spots, taking risks, sometimes failing, and then making comebacks, all culminating in the success of his digital marketing agency.

Lose Money Now, Make Much More Later

It’s important to note that, while Treehouse was bringing in more customers, it wasn’t profitable in the short term. That gets to an important concept that Siu believes isn’t talked about enough, but has been an important one in his work to breathe new life into companies—the payback period.

They payback period is the length of time required to recover the cost on an investment. According to Siu, mastering the payback period can mean the difference between a quick, small ROI, and building a company with a huge payday.

For SaaS businesses, payback period tends to be long, with some companies not breaking even on an investment until 18 months out. But if they look at the long term, they know they can make back way more than that initial investment if they’re patient, understand the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer, and know their numbers well.

In episode 551of their Marketing School podcast, Siu and Patel talk about the difference between seven-figure versus nine-figure businesses. Seven-figure businesses want a return on investment right away. Nine-figure businesses, however, are willing to lose money at first because they know the lifetime value of their customers.

Siu points to ClickFunnels as a great example of how understanding payback period can pay off in the long run. The marketing funnels software company is completely bootstrapped and reached $60 million in annual recurring revenue in 2017.

“The reason they're able to do that is because they have their numbers locked down,” he explains. “They are willing to perhaps even break even or lose money on the front end, right? So let's say when they first acquire an email or even a free trial in the beginning, they're going to lose money, but they know that their funnel in the backend is so locked down that they can upsell people on, you know, their mastermind or other bundles, things like that.”

Siu gives a hypothetical example too: Let’s say it costs you $1,200 to acquire a customer who pays $100 a month. The payback period, then, is 12 months. But if you can find a way to increase that price to $300 a month, you’re looking at a payback period that takes one-third the time. With the extra cash from the monthly recurring revenue of that customer, you can reinvest in your company to grow it faster. That’s why Siu emphasizes the importance of getting your pricing right. In fact, he says if he could go back to his Treehouse days, he would increase prices.

The Single Grain Salvage

Before he even hit the one-year mark with Treehouse, Siu set his sights on the next rescue mission: a failing SEO agency where Neil Patel was a partner. Armed with the marketing chops he honed at Treehouse, Siu was up for the challenge.

“But going to a company that I thought had a lot of problems,” he says, “that I thought was a house of cards, that I thought was going to be in big trouble—that was a different challenge.”

And even though he wasn’t thrilled to return to the agency world, the gamer in Siu saw it as a fun opportunity. “I thought the challenge of saving a stagnant company was really interesting because...I just see every challenge as, like, the game, right? It's just fun to play.”

At the time, Single Grain was an SEO agency with four partners. When Siu came onboard, he says the company was doing about $1.1 million a year, relying completely on SEO services, mainly link building for clients. But then the Google Penguin update happened, decimating Single Grain’s efforts.

“The work that the company was doing was no longer having an effect,” Siu says, “so customers just started churning left and right, and that's when we had to basically make a change. And that's when I popped in.”

But Siu had his work cut out for him. This time around, it wasn’t just marketing. He was in charge of operations too, and the company needed to get some processes in place. “Basically, when I came in, everything was on fire.”

Siu had to lay some people off because their roles were no longer relevant after the Google update. He then turned the company’s efforts to content marketing as the next logical step. Upon a recommendation, he hired a head of content marketing, which ended up being a mistake.

“This person was actually really toxic and caused four of our clients to leave,” he says. After that, two employees quit and morale was low.

Even though things had gone from bad to worse, Siu hung on.

The $2 Buyout

So let’s take stock of just where Siu was at in 2013: He was hired to resuscitate a dying company, he had to lay off employees, he hired the wrong person for a key role, his employees’ morale was low, and oh yeah, he had to take out a personal loan just to make payroll.

“I didn't know what the hell I was doing,” Siu says. “And I think a lot of times when it comes to business, or just when you're starting out, honestly, I think it's okay to say you don't know what you're doing.”

And then, leadership started to cave. One of the partners admitted to Siu that he wanted out, and the other three agreed that the company was worth nothing. While this easily could’ve been the end of Single Grain, Siu had an idea.

“I said, ‘Hey, guys, I will buy the company, I’ll take on the load, I'll put it on my shoulders, I'll see what I can do with it.’”

He offered one dollar to Neil Patel and one dollar to another partner, for 10 percent of their shares in the company. The other two partners, he offered to pay with profits from the company.

“So it's a buyout, but the contingency is if the company fails, I will owe nothing. So we signed that agreement, got it done, and it was off to the races,” Siu says.

He had his work cut out for him, as the company was in the negative when Siu took over; plus, its source of leads, Neil Patel, was now gone.

Meanwhile, as everything seemed to be falling apart, Siu continued to try to grow a podcast, Growth Everywhere,spending six hours a week recording and producing the episodes. One year into it, he was getting only nine downloads a day. But again, he powered through.

“Here's the thing,” he says, “you just keep going, right?” Now Growth Everywhere gets up to 80,000 downloads a month. Plus, it turned out to be a great lead generator for Single Grain.

Slowly but surely, Single Grain began gaining leads through organic search. Siu decided to refer those leads out and worked out referral deals with agencies, getting 25 to 30 percent of the lifetime of each customer. Siu says the referral income generated about $250,000 to $300,000 a year, but he wasn’t satisfied. “The kind of competitive spirit in me is like, ‘Okay, I wonder if we can build this thing up to be a paid advertising agency.’"

So Single Grain started experimenting with taking on its own clients and noticed retention went up, and clients were happier. Traffic was coming in from the podcast, organic search, and speaking events. Today, the company has 34 people working at an office in downtown L.A. The Single Grain website has gone from 4,000 visitors a month to about 80,000, and Siu believes it will reach half a million fairly quickly.

Content Marketing Is King

Take a look at Single Grain’s website, and you’ll see big client names such as Intuit, Amazon, and Salesforce. So what’s Siu’s secret for snagging premium clients? “Every single client that we have, whether it's a Uber or Lyft or TrustPilot, or whatever it is exactly, all came from content marketing.” In fact, up until recently, Single Grain didn’t even have an outbound team.

In the past, Siu says people from his management team have challenged him on the amount spent on content marketing, asking to see the ROI. So he did a breakdown of each client to see where they came from: podcasts, organic search, relationships Siu built up with people, and speaking opportunities. “It was all basically content marketing.”

When clients come through inbound or content marketing, Siu says, the sales cycle is much shorter than with outbound. Instead of waiting months for a deal to close, the time is cut down to weeks. In addition, the lifetime value of that client is longer, because after reading your blog posts, listening to your podcasts, and watching your videos, they feel like they know you. That leads to a longer-lasting relationship.

Another note Siu adds about client acquisition is that it pays off to specialize. At first, Single Grain focused on paid advertising for SaaS and education companies. They were able to boost their prices based on their specialty and proven framework.

“If anybody's trying to sell anything,” he explains, “when people ask you how you're different, the more you can niche down, at least in the very beginning, the more you can charge premium prices and the more you can focus in and maybe grow faster.”

Smooth Operator

Most of the employees at Treehouse were remote, so when Siu took over Single Grain, shutting down the San Francisco office and transitioning to a remote company seemed like a no-brainer. But as Siu puts it, it’s one of the “massive mistakes” he made.

Without having built up a rapport with his team and without understanding the relationships they had with each other, Siu says he shouldn’t have made an executive decision of that size, especially without asking for team input. “That totally devastated the culture, in my mind,” he says. “And I think when it comes to a services-based business, like this, where it requires a lot of creativity and collaboration, it's tough to have a completely remote atmosphere.”

So Siu shifted to a hybrid method: He and the team work in the office three days a week and remotely two days a week. “I just know that when we're in the office…we can just get so much done that way.”

To maximize productivity, Siu uses these two tools:

  • 15Five is a performance-tracking software that allows continuous feedback among your teammates. Grounded in positive psychology, it lets you see how people are feeling on a scale of one to five. It also allows employees to set priorities, report what they did for the week, and give each other high fives. “We can see how engaged people are. And that's one of the main core drivers, because 15Five allows us to see, even if you're filling out a five every single week...we can see in your answers, we can read between the lines to see how you're really feeling.”
  • Hubstaff is a time-tracking software that takes screenshots of each employee’s computer at random. “So here's the thing,” Siu says, “I don't like time tracking. But as an agency, service-based business, you kind of have to track your time to see how profitable you are per account.” And though he sees Hubstaff’s features as a bit “big brothery,” Siu says, “I personally don't like that kind of stuff, but I think it's really important, especially if we have contractors, from time to time.”

In addition to those tools, Single Grain has one-on-ones, as well as traction meetings with each team. “That's helped make us into a well-oiled machine,” Siu says, “and everyone's much happier now.”

Eric Siu’s Tips for Hiring Great Talent

When it comes to tapping into new talent for the team, Siu’s got a process worked out for that too.

  1. Establish core values. Even though people think it’s cliche, establishing what your company’s core values are before you begin hiring is essential.
  2. Assign homework. For new hires, it’s important to assign a tryout exercise. “It shows at the end of the day how serious they are about doing it.” Single Grain uses an applicant tracking system called Workable, where people can comment on it.
  3. Conduct one-way video interviews for more junior roles. Siu uses Spark Hire to conduct one-way recorded video interviews. “Because the thing is, with a lot of junior roles, you're going to get a lot of noise. Through a video interview, it's more asynchronous, so I can look at it whenever I want, or my team can. Or if it's a salesperson, we'll run them through a test called Objective Management Group, which has been fantastic.”
  4. Own the hiring decision. Siu always makes sure to be at the tail end of the interview process. “So whether it's an intern or anybody else, even if it's a remote person, I get to talk to the person,” he says. “I get to make the final call. Because then I can kind of own the decision at the end and say, ‘Hey, it's ultimately my fault if something goes wrong.’”
  5. Check those references! Yes, Single Grain does check references, and Siu judges the quality of the candidate based on this question: Are the first three references really excited about this person? Siu says he’s even been in a situation where he was about to make an offer but pulled it last minute because of the result of the reference checks. “We dig a little deeper, and we find out: can’t do it.”

Leveling Up: What’s Next for Single Grain

Never one to slow down, Siu’s already working on his next big projects. Right now, Single Grain is working on a SaaS product called ClickFlow, which helps companies get more organic traffic by boosting organic click-through rates.

On top of that, he’s writing a book, entitled Leveling Up as a nod to his competitive gaming days. “I just see this entire thing as a game,” he says. “Just plugging things together, making systems work, making it all happen.” Once the book is ready, he hopes he can use it to educate people on marketing and maybe even recruit talent to his agency or others. Siu also plans to do more live events and add an education component to his company.

“I think it all kind of plugs in together,” he says. “And I think the ultimate goal is just to give back and invest in education, because that's what I love.”

Key Takeaways:

  • What payback periods are and why understanding them is integral to scaling any business
  • How Siu bought a failing company for $2 and turned it into a powerhouse digital marketing agency
  • Siu’s most powerful strategy for snagging premium clients (it’s not a sales team)
  • The top tools remote companies can use to maximize productivity
  • Siu’s best tips for hiring great talent
Direct download: FP202_Eric_Siu.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:57am AEST

To Sabri Suby, business is a jungle and only the strong survive. To be successful, you need to dominate the digital landscape and crush the competition into a fine powder. That fierce attitude has served Suby, and his clients, very well over the years.

Suby is the founder of King Kong, the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in Australia. Last year, King Kong raked in $7 million in revenue from its digital marketing campaigns, over $200 million in sales for its clients, and this year, is aiming to top that.

Hustling since he was a teen, Suby learned how to sell early on. Making a whole lot of cold calls over the course of his life, he never let up. Starting King Kong in his bedroom on his girlfriend's laptop, Suby preferred to jump into the trenches and get his hands dirty instead of wasting time reading business books and attending events. That unrelenting approach definitely paid off.

Listen in as Suby discusses why his agency scaled to millions in revenue so quickly, how to dominate direct response marketing, and why a service-based business should be the top choice for entrepreneurs.

ATTENTION: Suby has partnered with Foundr to teach an epic new course, "Consulting Empire.” If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business, whether you are a consultant, coach or freelancer, Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in this new course. It’s just about ready so get on the free VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when it launches!

Direct download: FP201_Sabri_Suby.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:39am AEST

I refuse to lose.”

It's the mantra that has guided Foundr CEO Nathan Chan through the highs and lows of becoming an entrepreneur. It helped him resist the naysayers, and confront deep insecurities and self-doubt, to build the business he fell in love with right away. That sense of determination and drive continues to fuel Foundr’s big goal of impacting tens of millions of entrepreneurs around the globe with world-class resources and training.

In this inspiring interview, Nathan gets up close and personal and takes us behind the scenes of what it was like starting Foundr—the good and not so good—and the many lessons he learned along the way. Interviewed by Dave Hobson, our head of product and business development and one of the first to join the Foundr team, the two reminisce about the early days, the first goals the company set, and the memorable moments that transformed the company from a side hustle to global presence.

Pull up a chair and a drink (Does Nathan prefer wine or beer? Find out in this interview!) and learn more about Foundr, how the company started, and where it is headed in the near future. Nathan shares it all in this special 200th podcast episode. We promise you this is an interview that will inspire you for many years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • How Nathan transitioned from his day job to full-time entrepreneur and why the timing was critical to his success
  • What separates the entrepreneurial success stories from those who never make it happen
  • How to minimize risk where you can while still making huge strides for your business
  • The importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and getting the right advice from mentors. This is one of the keys to Foundr’s growth.
Direct download: FP200_David__Nathan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:01am AEST

As a lifelong, accomplished dancer, Payal Kadakia never thought she would become an entrepreneur. But it was that very love of dance that compelled her to help others pursue or rekindle their own passions.

Driven by a strong desire to create something with potential to change people's lives, Kadakia created ClassPass, a platform that helps fitness and dance enthusiasts find and book classes in 8,500 studios in 50 cities around the world. Kadakia has appeared on prominent lists such as Fortune’s Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs and Marie Claire’s Most Influential Women in America, and ClassPass has been ranked among the fastest-growing technology companies in North America.

It may sound like Kadakia effortlessly glided from performing arts to business, but her seven-year journey was full of setbacks. She overcame several problems and had to pivot twice to stay afloat and then thrive.

In this interview, Kadakia explains how she turned her personal passion into a successful business, including the importance of partnerships and how being “mission-obsessed” instead of “product-obsessed” fueled her growth. She also discusses the power of purpose in entrepreneurship and the principles of real perseverance.

Key Takeaways

  • How passion and success are closely related and how entrepreneurs can connect the two
  • Why having heart and soul in business is crucial for problem-solving
  • The partnership model that made ClassPass so successful
  • Why the size of your company doesn’t matter if you follow your mission
Direct download: FP199_Payal_Kadakia.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:26am AEST

In today’s podcast, we are shining the spotlight on one of our successful Instagram Domination students, Zach Benson. This driven entrepreneur is in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make his startup dreams (and travel dreams) a reality. And he’s done a great job. We couldn’t be prouder!

Benson was a former professional breakdancer who suffered an injury that ended his dance career. Looking for a “plan B,” he turned to Instagram and joined the Instagram Domination course to learn how to build his personal travel pages and drive valuable traffic. He’s done so well, that in the last 18 months, 170 exotic hotels have given him free stays in exchange for exposure to his network, and he is on track to hit $1 million in revenue.

But, the real magic happened when Benson partnered with a few Instagram Domination students and started an agency to help people grow and manage their Instagram accounts. The agency, Assistagram, has worked with high-profile clients such as The Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton and currently services 50 other companies.

Benson is grateful to the Instagram Domination community for allowing him to connect with like-minded people and create a thriving business fueled by his passions for travel and social media. We are so happy for him and the success he has achieved. Way to go, Zach!

Key Takeaways

  • How to build Instagram fan pages quickly to drive traffic to your company website
  • Why Instagram is still powerful even with the recent algorithm changes
  • What kind of content to post if you want to build brand awareness and grow your following
Direct download: FP198_Zach_Benson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:35am AEST

At 24 years of age Noah Kagan got tired of being fired. After getting the boot from Facebook and other companies, Kagan decided to create his own job and live life by his own rules. Those rules included posting taco-loving blogs, shooting over-the-top YouTube vids and creating Sumo, an eight-figure global company that empowers business owners to grow their brands using cool, geeky software tools.

Kagan likes to make business exciting and embraces the madness of entrepreneurial life. But aside from his contagious energy, he has a lot of knowledge and loves to help entrepreneurs. In this interview, he shares the lessons he learned building an eight-figure company and his top tips for hiring and maintaining A-player teams.

Kagan also stresses the importance of building relationships in this “era of Tinder-ization,” and teaches entrepreneurs how to set and track intentional goals to drive companies forward. Throw back a few (drinks or tacos) and listen in as Kagan shares his life and business adventures and helps entrepreneurs build and market profitable businesses.

Key Takeaways

  • The underestimated importance of relationship building in today’s market
  • How to create and keep a team of innovative employees who are team players
  • Why some vanity metrics, although exciting, can be a time and talent suck
  • How to set long and short-term goals that advance businesses
Direct download: FP197_Noah_Kagan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am AEST

Dan Siroker has always believed in the power of data and experimentation. A former project manager at Google and director of analytics under President Barack Obama, Siroker believes that experimentation should be one of the highest-order cultural values of an organization. To that end, Siroker co-founded Optimizely, a globally adopted software tool that enables businesses to experiment and fine-tune their businesses based on data.

From product development to front-end conversions, Siroker believes that a culture of experimentation should start from the top and trickle to the bottom, fueling growth on a large scale. Otherwise, organizations that are too afraid of risk and intolerant of failure end up undermining their ability to innovate.

In this interview, Siroker shares his strong belief in the power of experimentation, and how startups can use data to their advantage, now more than ever. He also shares one of the biggest lessons he's learned in his entrepreneurial career, and how he is building a 100-year legacy with his company.

Direct download: FP196_Dan_Siroker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17am AEST

Growing up as a fanatical skateboarder first in Ohio and then moving to California as a teen to pursue skating professionally, many of his friends and fellow skateboarders were older than him and running their own businesses.

From a very young age, he was steeped in skateboarding’s DIY culture, always on the lookout for the next frontier in the sport, or scrappy new brand to emerge from the scene. From skate shops to clothing companies, Dyrdek was exposed to a variety of entrepreneurial ventures early in life.

Key Takeaways

  • The core traits Dyrdek looks for when investing in businesses and entrepreneurs
  • What his “core to more” philosophy is and how it contributes to a company’s longevity
  • Dyrdek’s many business successes (and failures) and what he learned from each
Direct download: FP195_Rob_Dyrdek.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:24am AEST