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The SuccessLab Podcast: Where Entrepreneurs Collaborate for Success

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.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your journey? What led you to create Mighty Wise Media and how did you become a Forbes contributor?
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 be successful.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 entrepreneurship.
  6. 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 massive inferno.
    • 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 problems.
  7. 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 compound effect.
    • 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 systems.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 productivity tip.

Connect with Eric Wagner:

  • Forbes:

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 in December.


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
  • Facts
  • Boilerplate - a brief description of your company
  • Contact information
  • Keywords
  • Relevant links

Social media or content marketing press release elements include:

  • 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 clips
  • Tags

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:

  1. Why will people care?
  2. What’s the real story, angle or hook here?
  3. How will this add value to someone’s day?
  4. Would Seth Godin (or whoever you think is cool) retweet this?

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 some way.
  • 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!