Oct 14, 2014
Welcome to the SuccessLab Podcast episode #22. In this episode,
I’m in the lab with Eric Wagner, founder of Mighty Wise Media, where he operates a virtual academy
for entrepreneurs. He is also a Forbes and Entrepreneur
contributor, authoring articles about the core principles and
secrets of entrepreneurship. We talk about the traits of an
entrepreneur, time management through automation, delegation and
elimination…basically all things related to entrepreneurship. Eric
is truly amazing, so I hope you find this interview as
inspirational, motivating and valuable as I did.
- Can you tell us a bit about your journey? What led you
to create Mighty Wise Media and how did you become a Forbes
- I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. I feel like I was born
as an entrepreneur, and actually started my first company when I
was 14 years old. I’ve been starting and building companies for the
last 30+ years. My venture into starting Mighty Wise came from the
desire and passion to want to give back and serve entrepreneurs.
Having done it my entire life and been through the struggles of
entrepreneurship, and I've been down to some of the lowest points I
can remember in my life, and some of the peak points with some
great successes. I have a passion and deep understanding of what
entrepreneurs and business owners go through. That’s also why I
write for Forbes and Entrepreneur, and why I’m getting ready to
launch my first book for entrepreneurs.
- What was your first business at 14?
- I was working for a decorative glass company in Colorado that
basically put logos on glasses, and I thought if I could buy some
of these for a really good price from the owner, then take them
down to the swap meet and resell them, then I could probably make
some good money. So I bought the extras and that’s what I did.
- Do you think entrepreneurship is something you’re born
with or can it be learned over time?
- I think there are a couple of traits that are inherent with
entrepreneurship. I think you have to have these traits to succeed
as an entrepreneur, and the rest is learned. The traits I think we
need to have as entrepreneurs are one, the ability to be
risk tolerant. For entrepreneurs starting a business,
there’s risk involved. There’s always a risk because at the end of
the day we don’t get to decide if our business is successful. Yes,
we have a huge part to play in it, but the market determines our
success. And the second, which I have found through interviewing
many entrepreneurs and which I’ve found true for myself, is
the ability to be tenacious. Tenacity is something
I think we are born with. You either have it or you don’t. When you
get knocked down, you’re either going to get up and keep fighting
on, or your not. The bottom line is we’re going to get knocked down
as entrepreneurs. It’s just part of the game of entrepreneurship.
So it’s not a matter of whether you’re going to get knocked down.
You’re going to. It’s a matter of whether you get up.
- I do believe if you have those traits, then you can learn the
methodologies of entrepreneurship and the core principles, you can
learn leadership, and the craft of entrepreneurship. That’s one
thing that a lot entrepreneurs and business owners do not do -
learn the craft of entrepreneurship. There are certain
methodologies and ways in which things have to be done to
- What do you do at Mighty Wise Media?
- Our purpose at Mighty Wise is to empower entrepreneurs to build
great companies. And we do that by focusing on the core principles
of entrepreneurship. If you come to Mighty Wise, into our Academy,
we’re not teaching how to build a pretty Facebook fan page. We’re
teaching whether or not you need one. When an entrepreneur
struggles, it’s not about tactics, it’s not about getting more
Facebook likes or followers on Twitter. It comes down to the core
principles of understanding your business model, understanding the
pain of the market and the pain of your customer, understanding who
your customer is, understanding your value propositions, making
sure you have effective messaging, and that you’re speaking the
same language as your customer.
- What would you say are common mistakes entrepreneurs
make most often?
- I have a quote I love. It’s an ancient Chinese proverb...“If
you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither.” This is what I see
a lot of entrepreneurs do. They’re chasing too many rabbits, too
many opportunities, too many customer segments, trying to create
too many products, and too much messaging to go into the market.
Especially in the startup realm and for a smaller business that is
trying to figure out how to scale, it comes down to the basics, and
understanding what your secret formula or secret sauce is. Once
you’ve figured that piece out, then you can start thinking about
scaling it. There are a million things we have to do every day or
we think we have to do every day, and the bottom line is, about 96
percent of it is not important and not what we need to be working
on. So if we can identify the top three things that we need to be
working on, as entrepreneurs and as businesses, and focus only on
those things, that will get us closer to success than anything
else. It’s all about knowing what your key activities are.
- It’s unbelievable that you can just start a business with no
resources. Twenty years ago when I was starting businesses, you had
to have some resources. You don’t have to now, because we live in a
shared economy. There are a lot of entrepreneurs getting into the
game, which is great, because there’s no time better to do it. But
because of that there’s a lot of entrepreneurs getting into it that
don’t realize that they need to understand the core principles of
- Are there any common challenges you see entrepreneurs
struggle with the most?
- Time management is a huge issue. It’s sort of a cliche to say,
but it’s actually true. If you can understand the core activities
that you need to be working on, and focus on those everyday, the
compound effect of that is going to be great. As you consistently
focus on the things you most need to work on, and take baby steps
every day, you start to build momentum. That momentum going in the
right direction starts to turn the small kindling of a fire into a
- There’s also a big misunderstanding about customer dialogue. I
see a lot of entrepreneurs dream up an idea, go into their “cave”
so to speak and create this product or service, or whatever they
think their market wants, and their doing it without constant
feedback from the market. The book, “The Cluetrain
Manifesto,” says “markets are conversations,” which means you
have to be getting into a dialogue every step of the way. From the
beginning when you first have an idea for your business, to the day
you’re done with your business, you have to have feedback loops in
place and dialogue with your customers, and a deep understanding of
their pain, their desires, what their behaviors are, etc. I watch a
lot of entrepreneurs, and even businesses that are moving somewhat
strongly, but are stuck, simply do not understand who their
customer is or how to have conversations with them. If you have
those effective dialogues with you customers and begin to
experiment with product ideas and messaging, and get the feedback
immediately, you can fit the needs of your customer. Engage them in
the process so you can have a great company that solves their
- Scaling a business can be one of the toughest
challenges an entrepreneur has to face, how do you know when it's
time to start outsourcing or hire someone?
- As entrepreneurs we have to put a value on our time. I believe
ever entrepreneur's time is worth $1000 an hour. So if you put
$1000 an hour on your time, that helps frame everything you are
going to spend your time on. Having said that, if you’re struggling
and you're budget constrained, or you’re just starting out, you’re
certainly going to have to wear multiple hats. It’s about
understanding the things that you need to work on - what your key
activities are - then taking a look at what you’re actually doing.
You need to take a week to track that. Take a notepad with you and
every time you do something, write down what you’re doing then go
back through it and redline everything that’s a big waste of time.
Once you do that you’re able to see the things you still need to do
as a company, but don’t necessarily need to be doing yourself. Is
there a way to automate it, delegate it, or is it possible to
eliminate this. So it’s about automation, delegation, elimination.
The more you can hone that skill, the more you will be focused on
the things you should be doing everyday so you can create that
- Delegation is one thing, scaling is another. I see a lot of
entrepreneurs trying to scale their companies before they
understand their secret sauce, who their customer is, what their
value propositions and revenue streams are, etc. Once you get that
figured out on a small frame, then you scale with teams and
- You must have to monitor a lot to keep on top of
emerging trends, how do you find balance between consuming
information/content and staying productive?
- That’s always a challenge. I consume a lot content and read a
lot of books at night before going to bed, because that’s the time
I’ve set aside to do that. I don’t consume a lot of content during
the day because I’m doing the productivity piece of it. That’s just
my system. But if you have a schedule for when you learn vs. when
you earn, that’s the most important thing you can do.
- Do you have any favorite productivity tools or best
practices you can share?
- One of the things I’ve found extremely helpful for me when I
first started writing, because initially it was a challenge for me
to get into the mode of writing, was to set an appointment with
someone important. I asked myself, “who would I never break an
appointment with, if I had it every day?” If I had a meeting with
Richard Branson every day from 1 to 3 p.m., and that was on the
schedule , would I break that? No of course not. So I put that on
the calendar and every afternoon I would sit down to write -
eliminating all distractions. That has increased the number of
words I write 100 fold. So set an appointment with yourself and do
not break it. Keep a boundary around that appointment on your books
as if it was an appointment with someone important, is a huge
Connect with Eric Wagner:
- Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericwagner/
Look for his book, “Walk Through Fire: How to Rise Up, Face the
Inferno and Build the Business of Your Dreams,” which will be out
This week’s Biz Hack: Creating a press release
for today’s media. In the PR world there’s a lot of debate as to
whether or not the press release is dead. They are still in use,
and while most media prefer short, succinct pitches, if they are
interested in the news, they will generally ask for a press release
if you didn’t send one on your initial outreach. What has changed
however, is the importance of building in content sharing elements.
This is particularly important if you plan to send it over any kind
of newswire service, post it to your site, share it in your CRM
platform, or post it to a site like PitchEngine. Overall, the
structure and primary elements remain the same as the traditional
press release. This includes:
- A captivating headline
- A subhead or secondary headline to fill in any details
- Lead paragraph - this should encapsulate your news or
announcement in one succinct paragraph. In journalism this is
called the nut graph (the article or news in a nutshell) and will
include the who, what, when, where, why and how.
- Quotes - if applicable
- Boilerplate - a brief description of your company
- Contact information
- Relevant links
Social media or content marketing press release elements
- Sharing buttons - pre-configured to share specific content or
pieces of text
- A captivating headline - in 55 characters or less so that it
can he shared via Twitter
- Contact information - include social links. Only include a the
ones you are most active on.
- Multimedia - videos, images or a photo gallery, audio
Another way to go about this, and this bucks tradition, is to
completely rethink the press release, and focus more on creating a
story. Think about your own patterns. Are you more apt to share a
press release or a well-written, compelling blog or story from a
company? Focusing on telling a story still gets your news across,
but forces you to put your journalism hat on to create a more
compelling, high-value piece of content. Today we’re no longer
completely reliant on journalists to tell our stories. Thanks to
various publishing platforms, newswire distribution services, and
social sharing tools, your news can be published as is - thus
becoming shareable web content. With that in mind, why not create
something that delivers real value to the reader (journalists
included)? To do this, there are a few questions to ask to help
shape your story:
- Why will people care?
- What’s the real story, angle or hook here?
- How will this add value to someone’s day?
- Would Seth Godin (or whoever you think is cool) retweet
Once you’ve determined the answers to those basic questions,
you’ll want to apply the laws of a good blog post. A few elements
to keep in mind:
- Strong, eye-capturing headline, optimized for social, search
and of course the reader
- A strong opening or lead paragraph
- Keywords - be sure to use applicable keywords, being careful
not to detract from the content
- Multimedia - images, video, audio
- Easy-to-read layout - make use of bullet points, break text
into small digestible paragraphs and use subtitles to separate
sections, thoughts or actions
- Value - include a step-by-step, a downloadable how-to, humorous
photos, an infographic with interesting facts, a diagram or
demonstration, and the list goes on. Add value to the reader in
- A call to action - don’t forget this all-important piece. It
can be anything from downloading something, requesting additional
information, visiting your site, etc.
Next week I’ll talk about where to share all of this amazing
content you are going to start creating.
Action Items: Take a look at your news release
or product release schedule for the next six months, and begin to
create story ideas around this. Fold these stories into your
overall content marketing strategy and editorial calendar. Instead
of writing a traditional press release about your company merger or
this new shiny object you are releasing, can you create a slide
share presentation about, an ebook or an infographic to introduce
the news in a more compelling and valuable way? Shift your thinking
beyond how introducing this news will benefit your company, and
begin to think about how it will benefit the reader’s.
Quote of the Week: I like to finish up each
podcast with a quote, and this week’s is “You can usually correct a
bad decision. You can’t correct a non decision.” Uncle Jerry.
Next week we’re in The Lab with Sean Tierney, founder of Grid 7
and co-founder ofArtilage. We talk about marketing automation, and
knowing when to part ways with an idea and pursue that burning
passion. Be sure to tune! Until then, have prosperous week!