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The SuccessLab Podcast: Where Entrepreneurs Collaborate for Success

Dec 30, 2014

In this episode (#30! I can't believe it!) I’m in the lab with Dan Tyre, Director at HubSpot. Dan is Hubspot's employee #6. He's been there almost from the beginning and has been a key part of their growth. Dan also developed the concept of smarketing at HubSpot.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey? What led you to HubSpot?

I graduated from college in upstate New York, at Colgate University. While I was at school, and afterwards, I was a bass player in a heavy metal rock band. Which was a lot of fun, super exciting, but didn't pay a whole lot. My bass playing days were very fundamental in understanding how to deal with different types of people. I sold dictionaries, working my way through college, door to door in Washington and Oregon. I knew I had a skill there, so I started selling computers in Boston. Then my boss moved to a company by the name of Businessland, a company that IPO-ed in 1983. I had an eight-year run with Businessland, where I worked as a salesperson, sales manager, and general manager. We went through fantastic growth, and I got addicted to fast-growing companies.

2. How do you maintain work/life balance and productivity?

There is no such thing as work/life balance. I've got a beautiful wife Amy, who I've been married to for 25 years. We try to set the right boundaries. She knew when we got married that I was pretty hardcore. She's been incredibly accepting of that lifestyle for most of our marriage. If it gets too bad and the travel doesn't work, she's very upfront and will tell me. My family is great and very supportive of all the times I jump on planes. It's not always easy, but they've been a solid support. The only things I do are work and my family. I only have a couple of other outside interests. But work for me isn't work. Work for me is getting on the phone and talking to people like you, doing the Startup Grind, or talking with customers. And that's a ball of fun. I laugh all day. My dog, when I work from home, thinks I'm insane.

3. You’ve been a driving force in the growth and scale-up of several businesses, and even your own. Are there any keys to to success or tips you can share for an entrepreneur trying to grow their business?

1. Focus: If you're trying to do too many things, you can't concentrate. Any time I come to a guy who's running three or four businesses, I'm always a little skeptical. Running HubSpot is like five full-time jobs.

2. Stay Positive: You're never as good as you think you are, you're never as bad as you think you are.

3. Be Resilient: Being an entrepreneur, by definition, means you're going to get whacked around a little bit. That's the fun of it. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

4. Learn to Sell: Selling is a hugely valuable skill. Everybody is selling every hour of every day. Even on this podcast, you're either buying what I'm saying, or you're not. It's helpful to understand which side of the equation you're on. There's some great books to help with that: New Sales Simplified by Mike Weinberg and SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath.

5. Goals: Figure out your business goals and work towards them.

6. Don't Stop: You can't beat somebody who refuses to stop. Even if you're miserable, even if it's really hard, just put one foot in front of the other.

4. Are there any common challenges you see entrepreneurs struggle with the most?

You have to pick your first few employees very selectively. When you're first starting a company, you're going to be hanging with these people a lot. You're going to have to bust tail. We're talking 60 or 80-hour weeks for months and years. Then it becomes a little easier when you have 100 people. But up to that time, everybody's wearing 14 hats. Picking the right people, that you're going to spend all that time with, making sure they have a good attitude, and making sure you have a good business model.

5. Did you have a mentor that helped shape your career and the type of business person you are today?

Steve Levy, who was CEO of BBN, a federal contractor for the US government. They actually built the ARPANET, the precursor to the internet. I knew his son, and he said, "If you ever start a company, let me know." He assembled a board of directors for me that was unparalleled. I had this little, less than a million-dollar company. We pulled all the guys on the board together. Four times a year, they would come in and tell me what I needed to do to run my business strategically. They essentially invested my company and helped me grow to do that. All I had to do was buy them dinner four times a year. They weren't big drinkers, so it was a cheap date. They were the smartest guys, and it was such an education to understand board governance and scaling. The only thing Steve asked me to do was, when I got successful, if I could help encourage other entrepreneurs to do the same thing.

6. At Startup Grind, you talked about your approach to managing a team. Can you talk more about it?

Motivating people and motivating a team is an incredibly important component to being an entrepreneur. In any relationship, whether it's your significant other, your parental relationship, a business relationship, you have nothing unless you have trust. Trust is critically important. When I take over a team for the first time, or when I recruit somebody, I tell them, "For the next 30 days, all we're going to do is build trust." I also want to make sure I understand their goals. There's a great book by Heidi Grant Halvorson called Success: How We Can Reach Our Goals. The people who set goals, time frames for goals, and tangible goals are going to accomplish more, live longer, be healthier, have stronger relationships, and make more money. I give this book to all my subordinates, tell them to read it, and then ask them to do their goals.

7. Do you have a favorite productivity tool or best practice you can share with entrepreneurs?

I'm obsessive about preparation. The reason I wanted these questions in advance is because I think pretty quickly on my feet, but I want to have a logical process. I'm a prep monster. I teach all my folks that until you're really good, and it's like second nature, you always prep. That's my best practice.

8. How can folks connect with you?

LinkedIn, Twitter,, and  

Biz Hack

This week’s biz hack is about how to hack your marketing and overall business recipe by first learning the recipe for creating a pancake. This one actually comes from Christopher S. Penn. If you don’t follow him, check out his blog here. In a nutshell, he relates marketing to a simple pancake recipe. Here's the essential elements of a pancake (or any recipe, for that matter):

  • Flour: provides stability
  • Milk: the liquid protein provides the gluten to further support the dough’s matrix
  • Baking powder: further supports the dough’s matrix (or leavening) and gives the pancake its fluffy characteristic

Then of course there’s the salt, sugar, and oil to enhance the flavor and keep the pancake from sticking to the pan. So where is all this headed? Well, the folks who know the foundation for a good pancake, and what each of the components does and why it is used, can then make any variety of pancake: paleo, vegan, gluten-free, chocolate chip, pumpkin, banana, blueberry, buttermilk… the list goes on. In these cases, you can swap out certain ingredients for others (cow’s milk for almond milk) or increase the amount of others to compensate for eliminating a particular ingredient. Marketing, and even building your business, can also be thought of as a recipe in which the recipe is the tactic. Christopher puts it best: "If you just blindly follow marketing recipes without understanding what they do or what the outcome is supposed to look like, then you’ll forever be locked into the same way of doing things, rather than adapting to change." First, you have to know what your end goal is (what is the outcome supposed to look like) and the essential ingredients (the components that can’t be changed). Say, for example, you find a recipe that suggests you create a media kit and pitch, and you send it to the 25 top national media outlets. Taking a step back, what is this outcome of this? Establishing your brand’s messaging or story (a media kit and pitch force you to document this)? Building brand awareness and credibility (positive media coverage can do this)? But media outreach is not the only route to achieving this outcome. You just have to know what those ingredients do. Then, you can determine what to change. For brand awareness, if reaching out to media is not your gig, you can create an online advertising campaign, speak at notable conferences, or seek out awards for your company. The list goes on. One last thing to keep in mind: while the recipe is the tactic (and a cookbook is your book of tactics), the strategy is the menu. It’s more of a high-level look at how each of the recipes fit together. For instance, when a chef is planning a tasting menu, they won’t start with a steak and red wine, then dish up a salad paired with a white wine to follow. For winter menus, they also tend to stick to more soul-warming foods, not light, cooling recipes. The season, your audience, your budget, and your goals will all impact your marketing menu (strategy) and the recipes (tactics) you use to achieve that outcome.

Action Item

Spend some time determining the underlying structure of your marketing or business goals. What is the menu? And what recipes or tactics can be used to make that menu successful? Most importantly, what do each of those recipes do, and how will they help you achieve your end goal?

Quote of the Week

"There is no failure except no longer trying." — Elbert Hubbard  

Join me next week, when I’ll be testing out a slightly different format. You'll still get the podcast, but I'll also be posting a video interview to go along with it. This was a suggestion from our next guest, Chris Stark. He is the founder of Digital MGMT and is an incredibly brilliant entrepreneur and digital marketer. It came as no surprise that he suggested I step up my game with video. We talk all about online marketinga big question mark for a lot of folks. Be sure to tune in! For past Biz Hacks, Action Items and Quotes of the Week, visit, Until then, have prosperous week!