How to Think About Building Your Brand
This week on the SOL Podcast we welcome Eric Fulwiler – Co-Founder & CEO of Rival, representing co-founders, their company, and the whole team.
Tune in to the SOL Podcast to hear about Eric’s entrepreneurial experience and his journey with Rival.
Our discussion revolved around their company culture, vision, the value of interaction, growth story and the importance of branding, marketing, and product-market fit.
Hello and welcome to startups of London podcast. I’m your host Ozan and the founder of startups of London. Today I’m joined by Eric full Wyler, co-founder and CEO of Rival. Rival helps businesses hit their growth targets by building challenger brands and teams. It does sounds really exciting, but I think Eric would be the person to tell us all about it. Welcome to our chat, Eric.
Thanks so much. I’m going to do my best.
So, tell us all about it. What does Rival do? What is the business? What’s the opportunity there?
So the kind of like straight, no buzz, no spin explanation of it is where a marketing consulting firm, so we work on a project basis with companies to help them develop marketing strategies, and sometimes capabilities through training or, you know, org structure and things like that. But basically, it’s all about taking what we know and have seen work in the Challenger world, startups, scale-ups, kind of next-generation modern businesses and how they approach growth, and develop those capabilities and approaches internally, within our client’s organization. So that’s what we do. So, the best way to think of us or how we like to think about ourselves, and our aspiration is we’re kind of like a McKinsey for CMOS, but really focused on this kind of modern, disruptive challenger way of thinking about marketing and growth overall.
It seems to me as if marketing always has this Jekyll and Hyde two sides of a coin. Part is really analytical and technical. And as things get more digital, we rely on them. And it’s like an incredible edge. There’s the SEO component of it, of course. And there is the ad component of it and all the other stuff. But there’s also the creative aspect of it, which to be fair is perhaps how it all started, right? It was purely creative at a certain point in time. And then the technical components got added to it. Like how do you see that mix today? What do you think that healthy mix should be for a company like yourselves, in terms of the analytical and the technical versus the creative, and the gut feeling level of doing things?
So it’s absolutely true, I would argue that it’s actually true for any discipline, or anything that a business needs to do, because it’s, it’s about humans, humans are rational and emotional, and therefore marketing or how we listen to or tell stories, how we change our perception or behaviour, about what we do is both rational and emotional. And sometimes we don’t like to admit it or don’t even understand fully how emotional some of the decisions that we make. But that is the case. And I think that if you really look at our honesty about even product. I’m not an engineer, but I’d argue technology and how that’s built. Sure, some of them might be a little bit more rational than emotional. But at the end of the day, the best products, the best technology, the best marketing, the best brands, and the best organizations are a blend of both. To answer your question of what’s best for your business, for somebody out there listening; I think it depends on two things. I think it depends on who you are, as a company, right? I think a lot about how organizational this concept of what I call organizational self-awareness is so important, much like for an individual, I think that understanding who you are, where your strengths and weaknesses are, how you need to complement those where you need to double down. That’s so important for your personal happiness and success. I think that’s the same case for organizations. So as a company, you might be more rational, or you might be more analytical and how you want to approach marketing, or you might be the opposite, you might be more creative, you might be more emotional, and how you want to take things, there is no one right way to do it. But I think the best way for your organization is to start with who you are, be honest about that. And then work out towards what is the best balance of those two things. And then I think the other component of it, is at the end of the day, companies rise or fall to the level of the talent that they have onboard. And so you need to be honest about who your company is. But then also be honest about who the people are, that you have on board or are able to attract because it might be that the talent that you’ve surrounded yourself with is more one or the other. And in order to get the most out of them in order to fulfil the potential of your company in any discipline, but certainly marketing, you need to line up your strategy with the talent and the culture that you’re trying to build.
As you scale as a business that becomes increasingly important, which does make quite a bit of sense. As a business, as a brand has been birthed, let’s say, How should people approach that? In any of your experiences? And in your opinion? What is the best way to start thinking about the brand? We can think of an example of even a YouTuber, a new YouTube channel is a brand, right? Like a startup, what are the things that you think, in your opinion work well, in terms of some mental models, or some ways of approaching the building of a brand? And please think of it in terms of there’s always the question of finding the best performance in any niche, looking at their logos, their content and taking like an arithmetic average of what they’re doing and come up with something that is like perfectly median, like a vanilla version, and makes the case that like, it should be as good as the average because it’s the average of all these brands. And so like, does it work? Why does it not work? If it does not work?
Yes. So, this is what I’m very passionate about, as you can probably expect, given what I do. But I think the thing that I’m first most passionate about is that we do a lot of work in financial services, a lot of work in technology, a lot of work with people who might have a marketing responsibility but aren’t necessarily in marketing lead organizations. And what I see in a lot of these companies is I think they’re thinking about the brand in the wrong way. Now, don’t get me wrong, but I think the best marketing is a great product, right? And in that argument do you build a great brand, and then have the product deliver on it? Or do you build a great product, and then figure out how the brand takes it further? I think that, especially for early-stage businesses, the most important thing is getting to product market fit, making sure that the product you are getting to market is excellent, and over-delivering on the needs in the market. However, long-term sustainable growth, fulfilling the potential of your business, comes down to innovation and delivering a great product. And also, innovation and delivering a great brand. When it comes to the brand. The biggest thing that I think most organizations are getting wrong is that they think about and maybe even for some of the people listening when I say brand, or when I say marketing, you probably think about the logo, the visual identity, the SEO approach, the words you put on your website. That to me is the communication. That’s how you actually bring the brand to market. What brand really is? If it’s done well it is the bridge between the value proposition that you’re building in your product or service and the needs of the market. So, I will give you an example of one of the projects that we worked on last year. We built a challenger bank in South Africa. We only did the marketing side, of course, we didn’t actually build the product. But we were brought in at the stage that this company, this startup, had the CVP of this new bank of what they wanted to do. And they had the market research of hey, here are the needs in the South African banking market. And the way, the work that we do on the brand front, and how I think people should be thinking about brand, is it is the bridge between those two things. That’s what you’re doing. And so, what that means in a very tangible sense is. It is a strategy for basically identifying what you stand for, that delivers on people’s needs in a way that’s different from what the market is currently doing. I see what kind of a framework to kind of break it down and give people something to think about or potentially act on a good brand is tying together an understanding of the needs of the audience, right? So, the market research that probably people have done. Ore, who is the target that you were trying to sell into, ultimately, what are their needs? What is the insight about what they’re not getting from the current category, or the competition that’s out there? Then you need to look at the competitive set of the category as it stands right now. What are they delivering? What is the thing that they are known for if you had to kind of sum it all up? And then you have to do the same thing for your brand? What is the proposition both functionally of what your product does, but also emotionally of how it makes people feel? What does your brand proposition actually stand for? Those three things, audience category or competition, and your brand, you need to tie those three things together into what we call a point of difference. That’s what you should be positioning your brand on top of what you do that other people don’t. And that’s what you want to stand for. Then you figure out how do you bring that to life through the name of your product or company, through the visual identity through the design, the brand principles behaviour, now it’s getting into all the kind of like, marketing stuff that people are probably sat through before the foundational work of building that bridge between the needs, your value proposition, and what other people aren’t delivering, that’s the most important part.
So, in a way, you have defined a brand as the core strategy, the business strategy almost, that enables the company the people to reach a certain market segment in a way that is going to provide value for them. And the abstract, perhaps structuring the framework itself, rather than what we see in the front end, which is the logo, the colours, the statements and so on. And is that accurate?
Yes, totally. I mean, we think about it as you know, foundational growth strategy or brand-led business transformation, if we’re working with a bigger incumbent organization as we work with Reebok and Activision and some big blue chip brands as well. It’s about looking at what the brand wants to stand for, and figuring out how the product, the culture, and everything about the organization needs to deliver on that. I’ll give you an example that we use sometimes because everybody knows this brand, Airbnb. I’m going to take you through the whole case study of how they develop their new positioning. But you know, Airbnb. What they stand for, what their brand does, is it gives people an experience that brings them into the communities that they’re visiting, right? You have what the category convention of hotels, what that does, in their opinion, is sure you’re in that country, or you’re in that city, but you’re not actually experiencing the community, it’s actually kind of sterile and removed from what’s happening there. So, Airbnb is positioning Airbnb brings you into the communities that you’re visiting. Whereas hotels, remove you from it. And so now, if you go look at Airbnb if you go look at their website, or you think about the experiences that you’ve had with Airbnb as a brand, hopefully, you see and I certainly do, how their website the language that they use, how they advertise delivers on that as a fundamental positioning for their business.
So, you start with the fundamental position in a way.
I think marketing is like an onion, with lots of layers, perhaps, addressing this enigmatic thing, which some people who have not perhaps been exposed to marketing, too much to see as this magic pill, that can bring growth in the business or perhaps even like an add-on right, you must be running into this issue all the time, a customer comes to you, they have a central market position, a certain product market fit, and then they want to pay something and they want to see growth and more sales. And that’s kind of the transaction in their eyes, I feel like it. But it’s a different game at different levels. When you’re working with Reebok, for example. It’s a different thing than working with a solo entrepreneur or like a startup with three people, five people. So, I would really love it if you could speculate, or help us think through how a solo entrepreneur should think about building a brand. In the initial days, that is kind of what piques my interest the most. Because I do understand the other structure as the organization grows, it becomes more departmentalized and compartmentalized if you divide it into different sub-tasks and domains, and it is still very valuable. And with the power of some more resources, you can do an amazing thing from, I don’t have installations to Super Bowl campaigns and so on. But I love also the simplicity of that one person, one man, one woman showing off thinking, Okay, what do I create here? A blank piece of paper, I want to sell to this market, let’s say I want to create a YouTube channel. How do I think about marketing and branding in a way that is going to enable me to create the best value and get the most out of sales views whatsoever? In the limited amount of time, I have? How would you approach that? How would you suggest people approach that way of thinking?
So, my answer might surprise you. But I will explain it after I do not think you should worry about it. I do not think you should worry about brand and marketing if you are a solo entrepreneur who is just figuring out what they want to do and trying to get it off the ground.
It did surprise me.
But the thing is, the most important thing for an early-stage business. And of course, there are different definitions early stage, but at the very beginning, it’s all about product market fit. It’s “have you developed something?” that people actually want to buy, or spend time watching, have you developed something that’s better than what’s out there currently? And that can take a long time and a lot of work to get to I mean, at the beginning of Rival the first six months for me before we even named the company, before we had offerings or clients. I spent six months talking to as many CMOS or senior marketers, just smart people that I know as I possibly could and said, Hey, here’s what I’m thinking. What do you think? What are you getting from the McKinsey’s, the BCGs? The other big consulting firms out there? What are you not getting from them? What are the things that you would want to see in a brand-new marketing consulting firm, it was all about, I guess, call it market research, but really was just asking smart people questions, trying to understand the needs of my audience and the customers that we’re trying to serve? So, I think the most important thing, you know, the sticky note that you should have on the on the wallet in front of your desk, if you’re a solo entrepreneur is like how do I get to product market fit. And if it’s a you know, to use your example of a YouTube channel, you can call that a product but it’s not in the traditional sense a quote unquote, product, but it is you’re trying to get people to spend their attention with you, which in some ways is sometimes even harder than getting people to spend money with you, given how much content is out there. So how can you get to product market fit? How can you you know, who are you building the content for? You know, this podcast if this is for entrepreneurs in London in the UK, you know if I is trying to start a competitive podcast, I try to email as many of those people as I know, and just say, Hey, what are you not getting? What would you want to see in a new podcast, and I think the other piece of it is, then you need to test, then you need to put this piece of content out, see what happens, put this piece of content out, see what happens, you need to iterate until you get to the point of actually having that product market fit, which, of course, is one of those things where it’s not like a clear cut definition. Another example, that might be helpful for people. So, the last business I was in a company called 11, FS FinTech venture building…
I know it very well.
Yes. So, I was the CMO there for almost three years. And, you know, we built early stage, next generation financial services. And one of the co-founders, there was actually one of the co-founders at Monzo, and Starling. And it’s really interesting learning from him how Monzo thought about marketing. In the early days, they didn’t have a CMO, they didn’t really have a marketing team. But they still did marketing and their marketing was putting on events, to bring the community together, building a forum on their website to let people make suggestions about what product features they want to see, back to my metaphor of how brand and marketing is a bridge between your product and the needs of the market. And that goes both ways. They built that bridge to allow people to come to them. And that is all about. And all guns need to be trained on in an early stage business, finding product market fit, that’s the role of every function, in my opinion, until you get there.
The difficult thing is that you have to have a logo, you have to have a brand identity, and you have to put in a few characters of a brand name. Or something there simply to let’s say, launch a channel, launch a website. If you have a product, you need to slap a logo on it or a brand on it. First of all, you can identify, Okay, I’m working on Project X, right? You cannot keep it Project X or incognito mode and go to the market, you need to do some kind of a, it’s like you cannot go out not wearing any clothes, right? You need to wear some clothes, even if you’re going to a fashion designer, you need to go to the fashion designer wearing some clothes. So, I think in a way, that’s kind of what makes it more difficult for people. Because do I build something out? Knowing that I’m going to change it? When do I need to change it? What is the right time to do like a complete rebranding of what we have in terms of communication and the visual assets? How should we tackle that part?
So I guess it’s getting into the nuance of like how early stage we’re talking about in the example of one man or woman who’s thinking about maybe starting something. At that stage, I would recommend the Make a list of 100 people who are close to or know, your target audience and go talk to them. Because that should help inform what you name the company, and how it comes across all those things. If you’re past that point, and you need to, you know, get out there, then yeah, you need to pick a name, you need to develop a logo, etc. I mean, I’m not ashamed to say my wife named our company, we didn’t hire a marketing consultancy. We as marketers didn’t even come up with the name. It was just hey, we’re about challenger… But Rival… I don’t know, if it is the best name in the world. Who know? I think brand names like Google, Amazon, Apple, all these things. There’s certainly an argument that the brand is what you make it into. As a marketer. I think that there are better names, better brands than others. And if you’re a seed funded startup, maybe you do hire a consultant or a consultancy, to come in and, you know, work you through a proper process, because there is a better way to do it. But I guess what I’m saying is I wouldn’t overthink it too much in the early stage bootstrapped startup.
It depends on the scale. Yeah, some actions make perfect sense at a certain scale. And like, they’re absolutely nonsensical when you’re at scale.
Let me I’ll throw something else out there, that was really helpful for people. So we talked about these four principles of building a Rival brand. Being relevant to the needs of the audience that you’re trying to serve, which I think we’ve talked about a lot. Being authentic to who you are as a business. So, your brand can’t be out there and your marketing can’t be out there. You know, writing checks that your business and product can’t cash. The third is differentiated, which I think a lot of companies don’t spend enough time on. So back to my point of how I see a lot of financial services technology, in particular, non-marketing lead organizations just being like, well, our product is great. And that’s what our brand should be about. It needs to be about how it’s different than what people would buy otherwise, to my Airbnb example. And the fourth thing is dynamic. So modern brands are built in a way that they’re able to evolve, update and change with the world around it. Being flexible and adaptable and being able to take advantage of how much change is going on in the world is such a huge competitive strength. And it’s…
The last part… The dynamic part is not something we are traditionally perhaps thinking enough about when we are building a brand.
Yes. And so that, the traditional and I spent a long time in like big, classic advertising agencies. And it’s not an exaggeration, when I say if you’ve seen madmen, it really hasn’t changed that much in the last 5060 years. And the way that those companies and a lot of the big brands out there still think about brand is they talk about brand guidelines, literally a book, that is like, every time our brand shows up, it needs to be exactly this way. And maybe it changes every few years, when there’s a new CMO who comes on board. But for the most part, it’s static, the way that we think about brand. And our methodology is we talk about building brand operating systems. So, like an OS, a lot of it is fixed.
So, every once in a while, more of a central guideline of how to think about skill, and making decisions.
100%. And then every once in a while, there’s like a small update that maybe you don’t even notice as the consumer. And then you know, sometimes there’s actually an upgrade, that you do notice, but it’s for the better because there’s a better way to do something trends have changed, whatever it might be. So there needs to be that plasticity built into how you think about and go about building your brand as well.
I love this. And let’s talk about Rival as a business and where it is today. And perhaps a bit of the history of your brand and your company. Tell us about the resources you had like, have you started with a certain amount of funding? Was it self-funded? Or was it customer funded? What was the team size? And like what are the best opportunities that you see ahead for Rival as a company in the coming months and years?
Yes. So we are just over a year old. So, we launched in November 2021. It’s felt like at least three or four, which any entrepreneur and certainly, you know, founders out there can relate to…
That’s a good sign, usually.
In some good ways, and in some bad ways. And I know we’re going to talk about kind of the realities of being an entrepreneur. And I’m happy to share more on that. So, the plan for Rival was always to start as a consulting business. Because services is faster, cheaper and easier to get off the ground. You don’t have to spend a year building a beta product and then raising money for it. And so that’s what we’ve done. And so, kind of the customer…
You can iterate quickly around the services; you can change a lot of fluidity with a service business as opposed to a product business.
Exactly. And so the kind of core consulting team doing the McKinsey type services, that’s about 15 people now, that’s been bootstrapped. However, I was hoping I could kind of formally announce this on the podcast, but it looks like the announcement is going to get pushed back to next week. But it’ll be out by the time this gets released, I assume. So the plan all along was our vision, what we stand for and what we’re trying to accomplish in the lifespan of Rival is we want to enable any business to think and act and grow like a challenger. And how we want to do that is by you know, helping companies develop the strategy and capabilities internally, to be able to do that. That’s the consulting side, but also building tools and technology to enable them to do it for themselves. Because of course, that’s much more scalable than services will ever be. So actually, for the last few months, we’ve been developing our first product, which is called Rival hero, and it’s a market intelligence tool that looks at search data within a category to understand how the category is changing, and then inform how a brand should be positioned within it.
I’m sorry to interrupt, but just a quick note here, for entrepreneurs out there. I see this model working well with for most businesses as a strategy playbook thing, I start with a service business using and leveraging the connections, you have the expertise, you have the theme you have built a brand and build assets. And then it gives an incredible window into what type of products are missing in the market. So much easier to establish a product market fit, right, as opposed to writing on a blank piece of paper, what product is needed in the market, which is like throwing darts in the dark to my eyes now.
Exactly. And so it gives that kind of market research on an ongoing basis as well. You know, we’ve worked with I know, 3035 clients over these first 12 months, every one of those plus, you know, the conversations we have that don’t turn into projects give us insight on where there’s a need that we can build technology to solve for in the market. It also provides, you know, a little bit of seed stage capital, let’s say to get that product off the ground. And then also it provides kind of a sales, customer service team for those products, as well, like that team is still going to be focused on delivering consulting work, of course, but we’re hoping that a lot of the customers and clients that we’re working with on the consulting side can also benefit from the technology. And so, for that kind of technology group. So, we’ve hired a head of product, we’re building out an engineering team for that we actually have raised a small round of funding. And as we grow, what we want to be is, you know, there’s the McKinsey for CMOS, and then the kind of product tech side is kind of like a Google Labs for CMOS in the sense that it’s constantly spinning up different tools or different products that can help companies think act and grow like a challenger.
Really interesting. You’ve talked about the difficulties. We had a small chat about it before the podcast, but it’s something that I would really love to focus on before we run out of time. Is Rival the first company that you’ve built as a founder? Did you have an experience prior to this? Before I ask my question.
I dabbled. So you know, when I was 25, or whatever I was like, I’m going to go start this company. And I spent a couple of months on it, never really did it. I kind of but not formally co-founded a company with my college roommate in real estate in New York, but nothing like this that was like, I’m going to build a real company. So I think I’ve been in and around startups for most of my career. But I’d say this is the first true founder experience I’ve had.
So what have you discovered so far? What has surprised you about being a founder?
Oh, man. Can I swear on this podcast?
It is fucking hard. It is so fucking hard. And I feel that I’m very passionate about this. I feel like nobody talks about it enough, then fine. I think that’s human nature. I’m fascinated by kind of what LinkedIn has done to become a content, social network destination over the last few years. But everything that we’ve seen play out on Instagram, where everybody posts, the best version of themselves, is totally playing out on LinkedIn, or at least my feed with entrepreneurs and business people.
It’s just the caricature at this point in my eye.
It’s either a caricature. Yes, I think it is a caricature. It’s an exaggeration. But it’s also only the good stuff. You know, nobody’s going to post about how hard their week was, or that deal they lost or that mistake that they made. And I’m actually trying to do more of that. Because I think that it is not healthy or helpful for other people out there to only see everybody posting about the wins and the headlines and the accomplishments because you feel like you’re worse. And you feel like you’re alone. You feel like what, you know what’s wrong with me that I’m not getting it right all the time. At least for me, and I can only speak to my experience. You know, I’m not just out of university, I’ve had 15 years of experience in this industry. I’ve been in startups before, it has been so hard.
Then you have a lot of assets as well. You have the network connections, the experience, your way around how to motivate yourself what to do when you are not motivated, and how to structure your time. So, a lot of assets from time to people, corrections, money, you have all of those things that it’s still very hard.
Totally. Yes, exactly. And I’ve on paper, and you know, year one has been good. And we are kind of like on a plan for where we want to be so has been, I guess successful so far. There’s the time that it takes, which as a father of three, and all the other kinds of demands on my time at this stage of my life is real. But I think the other thing and again, maybe this is just for me like emotionally and psychologically, it’s really hard because it is such a roller coaster. And if you’re anything like me, and if you’re a founder, you probably suffer from this symptom. You are self-worth and how you think about yourself is so tied up and how well your company does. And so, every week, when things are so small and so fragile, a good week, you feel amazing, a bad week, you feel terrible. And it’s just really, really hard. And even with all the support and all the people out there that are helping you, and I’m lucky to work with some amazing people on the Rival team. It is still like pushing that rock uphill every single day. Now, I think that is a feature, not a bug. I think that if you are trying to do something hard, starting a company is really hard. Making a company successful is really hard. This is not a lifestyle business, building a company at scale. Raising money is really, really hard. It should be difficult. It should be draining. It should be challenging. All I’m saying is I think people should talk about that more. Because I think maybe it’s harder for me for whatever reason. But I think for most people out there, they’re going through something more similar to what I’m talking about, than what they see out there and LinkedIn and blogs and podcasts for that matter. So that’s my soapbox, I’ll stand on it for as long as people want to listen to me. That’s my honest answer about how it’s been.
Thanks. I can’t tell you how much it means to hear this. And I think it’s the same for other entrepreneurs. It is difficult. And the problem is accentuated by the fact that people are not representing how difficult it is to build a business. It’s almost like these hype cycles in a way that I think about it, the periods where the internet was this gold rush, open field. And a lot of businesses people in the right time in the right places, the Silicon Valley’s and the Facebook’s, so I see those as like the first wave, and then the Airbnbs and Ubers as the kind of like the second wave. And then another group of batches of companies filling in the gaps as a third wave. This is my personal take on this, of course, is perhaps some advice, or those three different waves, then created a certain narrative about your odds of building a successful business, the difficulty of it, and the tolerance for mistakes. And then that message has amplified to such a degree that globally, people have acquired a certain idea of what it is like to build a startup, how realistic or unrealistic that might be, they kind of had this, or everybody’s doing it. Everybody wants to work in a startup all it’s an incredible opportunity, which it is. But it’s also very difficult there is to be realistic. And this is one of the mistakes that I have made as an entrepreneur, as a founder you can afford to play with all odds, only so much. What I’m trying to say is; if you’re building a startup, even if you have everything perfect, you’re in the right place at the right time, you have the right connections, and so on. You have either no let’s say 20% of chance to succeed. And then let’s say you want to do something crazy. So you want not to just build a business, that’s going to make money, but you want to build a business that’s going to create social impact in a market that perhaps doesn’t exist yet. So they add that is another perhaps multiplier of 0.2. Right on top of the risks and rewards you have. And on top of it, let’s say you’re not in Silicon Valley, or you’re working in a place in the world where you don’t have the connections for investment, again, add another multiplier of 0.2 N, it’s just a geometric curve up until after the second or the third variable that you add to that equation, that your chance of success becomes marginally null in that graph, it is kind of how I visualize it right now having built if you’ve companies, so there is always a chance to do it. And I don’t know if you agree with this perspective, perhaps you have a different take. But also the reason why it is difficult in the way that I have experienced it is; it is difficult because you have and this is no news for you, of course, but people who have perhaps, thought about and not started when we say it’s difficult. It’s I think also important to describe why it is difficult, it is difficult because there are so many strings pulling on your attention and swimming decisions that you need to get right. In different domains. You need to be a good money manager, you need to be a good people manager, you need to be a great time manager really structure the goals and incentives. And you need to be at the same time be able to think really far ahead. But with that you need to be able to direct your attention to short term crises as well and another list of four or five things you can add on top of this and some people are good at some of these, but it is really difficult to be good enough with all of these and the less product market fit you have all of these become more difficult kind of like a multiply on all of these I find because if the money is flowing and if there is good demand, then all of these problems are easier. But if you are trying to operate in a market which is shrinking, for example, everything becomes more difficult. I would love you to reflect the future on one of the things that I said maybe you disagree with some of them, I would love to hear your thoughts as we wrap up.
I totally agree. Overall, I think the demands on your time, and how many things you need to know or learn as you go, is one of the things that make it so hard one, hopefully very practical piece of advice that I can give people from my experience, you know, I have this in mind going in, because again, I’ve kind of been around the block before, but I’m so glad that I did it probably one of the most important besides getting my two co-founders on board, probably the most important and best decision I’ve made over the last over the first 12 months the company is I hired an Operations Director, well ahead of an of what any kind of advisor or, you know, startup textbook would tell you to do. When we were three, four months into the business I brought on Jess whom I’ve worked with before, to basically handle all of the day-to-day, accounting, legal procurement, all of that stuff, to allow myself and my two co-founders to focus on, basically growing the business and building the product. And from a financial position. It didn’t make sense. But I think for me, knowing what I like to focus on where I get my energy, and also what I thought was most important, that’s advice that I would give anybody is like the role of the founder, the role of the CEO is to grow the business, I’d think about auditing your time, quick audit, just to say like, where am I spending time that’s not on growth. And if you’re in a position, even if you have to stretch a little bit, to bring on someone to help with the stuff that’s not that, I’d highly recommend that you consider doing that. The other thing that I wanted to throw out to kind of build on your conversation, which I think might be an interesting perspective for people is, I worked for GE… Do you know, a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk in the US?
Yes, you’ve worked for him.
I worked for seven years directly.
Sevenyears… You have a lot of patients. He seems like a difficult character.
He’s the smartest person I know. He’s an incredible entrepreneur and businessman.
He is very influential, like I and my previous co-founder, and like every video learning business we’ve built, we’ve talked about him a lot.
Yes, he’s incredible and…
He has like this hype cycle with everything, right? He totally was influential. And then a certain time came that I feel like growth was so important for him. It did not matter what people thought of what he did. And like after that, it becomes kind of too popular for our nuanced days. And then it starts to go downhill. I think you have that kind of like hype cycle.
You know, I think this is probably the case with most, hyper-successful entrepreneurs is like, there needs to be a certain element of I don’t care what people think. But you need to be right about those things in order for it to work out for you. And I think there were a couple of things like, you know, ultimate respect for Gary, I learned so much from working with him still very close with him. But one of the things is, you know, he has talked a lot in the past, I don’t know if he’s kind of changed his tune on this, but about how you’re either an entrepreneur or you’re not an entrepreneur, right? If you can have a job working for someone that means you’re not an entrepreneur, that’s kind of his definition of it. And I disagree. For me, if you play out my career, 100 times 60 Of those, and with me starting my own business at some stage, but a lot of them don’t. And even this with Rival, you know, when I was, you know, gearing up to leave 11 Fs, I was looking for another CMO job. And I didn’t find one that was interesting. And you know, my two co-founders who were the smartest people I’ve worked with, in past roles, were kind of coming on the market. And so, we decided to give this a shot. But I do not think and this goes back to my kind of… You know how people talk about it versus how it is. I don’t like I think, I’m more like I have entrepreneurial tendencies. And I happen to start a company, and that’s okay, I don’t think you need to be like wow, I’m just like every Gary Vaynerchuk out there in order to build a successful business.
I think there’s a lot of survivorship bias there. But everyone knows, they’re like, I’ve done this, I’ve been incredibly successful, you can do this, and you can be successful too. But if you dig down enough, and you can only understand this, as you see enough examples of evidence, because then the trend itself, the theme itself becomes apparent when you have multiple data points, right? Is okay, all of these people who are telling me that it is possible to be successful, what do they have in common? Okay, I see they have like, wealthy parents or they have like this edge, and then you start to notice that pattern is not to take away from their success. I mean, they’ll do for them. But they’re also like nobody’s starting from scratch, essentially, when you’re born into this world, even at a psychological level, right? I’ve been obsessed with neuroscience over the last few years, listening to people like Robert Sapolsky, like a Stanford professor, and many others and I love learning about it. And even that is an asset. So having parents who have given you a healthy upbringing and as a father of three I’m sure you can understand it. Not everybody has that because it defines your capacity to be able to deal with stress, and uncertainty, and feel good about yourself and your confidence. And if you had a traumatic childhood, for example. It is so much more difficult to deal with the uncertainty of being a founder. Even that is, yeah, by itself, enough to show up, it’s a different game for everyone, I think.
I totally agree. And like, look, where you are born, and whom you are born to, is the biggest factor in your initial opportunities. And like, it just… That’s not my opinion, that is like research that is out there. And I’m low. I’m a white guy from Boston, Massachusetts, in the US. And I never take that for granted. Now, I feel like I’ve worked really hard to make the most of those opportunities. But you know, where we come from is a big part of it. Funny, fun fact, my mom actually went to university with Robert Sapolsky.
Wow that’s amazing.
So, it’s like, where you know where he’s from is a huge part of who you are. It’s not determinant.
Like, it defines what types of circles you started, right? At least you’re an arm’s length to a certain place.
Yes. And that’s, and I know that I know, we’re up on time. But another thing I’m really passionate about, we’re trying to do differently granted on small scale at Rival, I’m very passionate about trying to level the playing field when it comes to our industry of marketing, or really any industry out there to give people the same opportunities, regardless of where they come from. So, a big part of us being a remote business is so that we can hire people, no matter where they are in the world. We just hired an associate who’s based in Nigeria. Because she was the best candidate who came through the application process if you’re only hiring from your network, or in a city like London or New York. You know, I don’t think that that furthers that I don’t think that furthers that agenda quite as much. So I think that, and, you know, you mentioned before, businesses trying to do kind of social good, as well as commercially, and that’s a big thing for us, you know, we’re a B Corp, we donate 1% of our revenue to an organization that gives it to environmental nonprofits. And, you know, we’re 15 people, we’re not, you know, a massive company. But I really think that, if you’re a one-person startup, if you’re a 15, person startup, and certainly if you’re a bigger company if everybody can do what they think is right, to try to create positive change, even in their tiny quarter, the corner of the industry, I think small actions add up to big change. So just because you don’t think it’s going to have a big impact immediately doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do something about it.
This is a perspective I so deeply agree with. I even had a certain type of facilitating training, speaking engagement structure, when I was talking about how to design careers and impact in the world. This was three or four years ago. And this was the exact point that I made that there is a certain humility to saying, either positive or negative, it is impossible in a chaos theory type of way to understand the size of the impact you’re going to make when you make a positive or negative action. Because there’s so much variation and so much derivative of your action, it affects certain people inspiring another person to do another positive Act, or making those persons think and see the world even in a worse and more negative light and making them more jaded or perhaps making them feel more okay with doing something that is unethical. So, it is impossible next to impossible to really know the size and the immense impact you might have. But what we have controllers, however small, we have control on it. if it’s negative or positive. And I think that’s the attitude. Some entrepreneurs are really inspired by it. But I also feel that the positive vibe of entrepreneurship has been fading in the last couple of years. Now entrepreneurs have started to see in as more villains. I think this is one of my criticisms of the UK ecosystem as well. But there’s a certain amount of healthy scepticism around being an entrepreneur which is part of the British culture, which I do really like actually. But also, I think that scepticism sometimes goes too far in the other direction where people do not like it’s a thing to be made fun of. It seems sometimes when you say I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a founder, etc. Like that as a sort of stigma. And I don’t think it’s good. I would prefer it when it was something more positive. But Eric, I mean, this has been the longest podcast recording we have ever done today. Honestly, this is like the 99th episode for our guests. And…
Maybe it can be episodes 99 and 100.
Maybe we can do that. Yes, maybe we can do like a two-part series. So that 100th episode. But I’ll keep you in the loop. Thank you so much for joining the chats. I wish we had more time to talk together but it’s a blast. Thank you for coming in.
Thanks so much for having me. Till next time.
Till next time bye