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In this bonus AfterCast™ podcast episode Samuel Monnie and Chris Lawson recap, reflect and remix topics from the interview with Arjo Ghosh. The advent of digital marketing, self-reflection, the entrepreneurial spirit and the power of questioning. With case studies of some inspirational entrepreneurial success stories.  As always we finish with three key takeaways from the episode.  Contact: https://www.marketingtransformed.com/

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Episode 57
Arjo Ghosh AfterCast™.Bonus Episode. Backstory of Entrepreneurial success

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  • Arjo’s success story of becoming an entrepreneur and the impact of his  background

  • Self-reflection and its importance in business.

  • What is takes to be an entrepreneur

  • Acting on ideas and asking powerful questions

  • ‘The Daughter Effect’ and the rising tide of Female founders

Transcripts:

CHRIS:

Welcome to Across the Pond. My name's Chris Lawson, I'm joined across the pond by Samuel Monnie. Say hello Sam. 

 

SAM:

Hey Chris, hey audience, hey listeners, hey everybody. It's great to be back, another episode another week. 

 

The Advent of Digital Marketing 

 

CHRIS:

We've got a really, really interesting episode this week, and it builds on last week's interview when we featured Arjo Ghosh; a great guy, who I met 20 years ago. If you haven't had a chance then do give it a listen because it was an awesome conversation around really surfing that wave, anticipating change, building a business off the back of it. We're going to have a look back into Arjo's  past and how that impacted on decisions he took later on in life.

 

Arjo was there at the advent of digital marketing and he anticipated search engine marketing, its role in the future world and he put that to good use. He created a business model all around being paid on performance, which was ahead of his time and X number of years later, he sold it to iCrossing, and then later on to Hearst

 

One of the things that struck us was the backstory of becoming a successful entrepreneur in the case of  Arjo. And it got us thinking - ‘is being a successful entrepreneur nature or nurture?’ By his own admission, Arjo didn't really have a conventional upbringing and he talks eloquently about how this shaped him - the fact that the school was quite unconventional in the seventies with the children, making a lot of the decisions and about how it was quite uncomfortable at the time as you were held to account by your peers, verging on the Lord of the Flies in some respects. And certainly that disruption, lack of structure, independence, being held to account are all factors that come up time and time again when you look at entrepreneurs, but it's interesting to think how much does that childhood beginnings play a part in being an entrepreneur?

 

SAM:

What was great with that conversation is that he included his life story. Throughout the episode , you'll actually hear his background and multiple stories of his life; his experiences, the conversations that he's now having with his own kids, his own daughter, and about her career choices, the advice that he's providing her and how things have changed. It's great to see that circle of life, that journey come through, the work he does and also how he's innovating and being an entrepreneur now. 

 

CHRIS:

There's a number of rags to riches stories out there, that glamorizes being an entrepreneur. And of course, not all entrepreneurs take that route, but one that did strike me was the founder of Paul Mitchell hair products. His name is John Paul DeJoria, and he founded it with his co-founder Paul Mitchell. He found himself homeless twice - once with his two year old son as he pursued his dream. Now that he's come out the other side of it, he really embraces that philanthropic passion. He signed up to the Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, giving pledge - giving half of his earnings to try and better the world.I think the power of stories like that are immense and there are commonalities in them around early independence, having to grow up quickly for one reason or the other and stories of sometimes chaos and disruption as well. Perhaps an appreciation of business and entrepreneurship from an early age - that resilience that you might need?

 

So Arjo was a great storyteller. He taught us a lot in a short space of time. So we're going to dissect that conversation, reflect on our own experience and really take it from there, aren't we?

 

Time for Self-reflection

 

SAM:

For us, it's a bit of self-reflection on our entrepreneurial journeys and it was great to be able to relate that to the work he was doing as well.

 

CHRIS:

There was one aspect we talked about - at the age of 11 and school assembly, where he was asked what he was going to do, and he said “I'm not going to work for anyone else, I'm going to work for myself”. I think that is quite a bold statement at the age of 11. So it did get us thinking: ‘do these early childhood experiences of breaking boundaries, challenging convention, come out to play later on in life?’

 

SAM: 

I'm reflecting again - does the school system really encourage you to be entrepreneurial? If I had said "I'm not going to work for anyone else, I'm going to work for myself", they would have called me a degenerate and probably given me a detention or something. So I think now the idea that that approach is the only approach, hopefully folks in schools and educators are more open to it and there's more encouragement happening. It didn't really happen when I was younger. I went to a state school in the UK, which was open to the local community and the teachers weren't exactly the most encouraging of non-conventional ideas or suggestions, some of them sadly, very few of them that I can remember now, were the ones who actually listened to you, the ones who gave you inspiration and the ones who could sort of relate to you in that great way. Again, this is not a criticism of the education system, but I think now we're seeing different models and different types of schools and different systems that are really helping bring this to life at an earlier age. 

 

I was on Twitter the other day and one of the people I followed was saying his son interrupted his zoom meeting to say he's applying for a business loan and he needs some help - he's like 10 or 11 years of age. I was thinking, ‘wow, what a great parent to foster that entrepreneurial spirit’. This kid is really coming up with the idea and actually realizing they can make it happen at 10 or 11 years of age!

 

CHRIS:

Well, funnily enough, there's a lady called Jody Cook who wrote a Forbes article about this. The premise was that since she started her own agency in about 2011, she'd been fascinated by the influences that create entrepreneurs and created a book called 'How to Raise Entrepreneurial Kids' and a series of children's storybooks called 'Clever Tykes’, which tries to develop positive, resourceful, creative behavior in 6-9 year olds. I thought that was really interesting and the title of a TEDx talk that she's presented is called ‘Creating Useful People’. I thought that was a very different angle on education and learning.The other aspect of that Sam, is around mentors and the role that they play as well in terms of people slightly to one side of the education system and the impact that can have on your entrepreneurial spirit. 

 

To Mentor or Not to Mentor?

 

SAM:

Mentors come in different shapes and sizes. For me, it's about mentors, sponsors and advisors throughout your life and career that can give you different perspectives and guidance that is truly designed to nurture you versus some other agenda. They could be teachers, they could be religious leaders. It could be someone, if you're into music or arts or drama, in the community, parents of other kids that you know, who do different professions and follow your passions. So for me, it was just reflecting back that there are these different roles that you have from an early age, but continue throughout your life and career. Mentors are the ones who kind of give you the good, bad and ugly. They're the people who you go to, who can really answer discrete career questions and they give you specific tailored advice. And that means you have that respect and trusted relationship for them to really be open and honest with you and give you the good, the bad and ugly back. So you can tell them the truth and they can hold you accountable to the truth, but it's specific to you. They really know you well enough to earn trust and also vice versa. Another role is a sponsor and their role as a sponsor is really to use their internal political and social capital to move you forward in the organization to get you that promotion. If it's four or five candidates, they say, yes, it's Chris, or yes, it's Sam or whoever. They go to bat for you, they fight for you, they advocate for you in a proactive way - they've got your back. They help push you ahead and help to prepare you. 

 

Then advisors are another group of people who provide expert insight and advice, and they can answer discreet questions, but they're not going to give you deep advice across your whole career. So those are three things to have in mind to bring this to life throughout your life, career, entrepreneurial or not mentors, sponsors and advisors. 

 

CHRIS:

I think it's worth saying  that they don't have to be with you through the whole journey as well. Quite often I find I've sort of dipped into different types of mentor or advisors at different points and it's been incredibly valuable and it is interesting that certainly my experience of talking to entrepreneurs that is a growing point to make sure you've got that reflection, that outside-in view someone that you can sort of hold a mirror up to you and make sure you're doing the right thing. 

 

SAM:

Yeah, a quick build on that is the concept of reverse mentoring; I've seen this a lot now, where you have people who are more junior or perhaps younger, who are mentoring older people. It's that idea that you can learn from anyone and you can learn from everyone. You can learn from people who are perhaps less experienced in terms of amount of time on this planet, but absolutely bringing things to the table and expertise perspective in their community, their audience, their consumer group, and the way they see the world, the technologies they use so often that reverse mentoring plays an awesome role in entrepreneurial life.

 

As we move on to more of what Arjo was talking about, it kind of hit on the themes of risk reward, failure and learning that's coming to fruition now. There's a lot of emphasis on navigating your own path and speaking your own truth and really actually doing entrepreneurship versus maybe thinking about it. I'm a huge fan of opportunities, equally to learn and study how to do it, right? So there is an opportunity to learn from academia as well as a practitioner approach. It's something that you can study and intellectually talk about, but you have to really bring it to action and make it happen. When I think of recent experiences, it makes me think of Patrick J Murphy. He's a professor that I met at the DePaul university in Chicago, and he's now professor at the university of Alabama in entrepreneurship and what he did so well, he, he did some great collaborative efforts, social enterprise. So the students and practitioners and adjunct instructors and business leaders and entrepreneurs were all coming together. He was raising funds, training instructors, consulting the entrepreneurs, the strategic alliances that brought in the students who could then launch their own entrepreneurial ventures. So for me, it helped with my continuous learning journey of how to stay in the game and learn the latest and greatest techniques and be up to speed with entrepreneurship in the more modern era. 

 

CHRIS:

That's so important because the stakes are so high when being an entrepreneur, there's so much at risk isn't there? In terms of cash flow is such a significant factor, we covered that in a previous episode before, and just what you're investing into it. It's your whole life, isn't it? 

 

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

 

SAM:

My wife and I opened our women's apparel retailer Boutique Larrieux.  She had an idea, did the research and we followed through with that. Less stress sticking with a corporate career that was more common and expected for her and her peers. I was still in corporate and had to balance doing both. The lessons learned from that are being applied to what we're both doing now in our careers. Again, I've gone back to the entrepreneurial side again. We talked a lot about the characteristics of this in episode 38 - embracing your entrepreneurial ethical spirit. 

 

I've got some buddies who have founded the soulful project. You can go and find them online. The soulfulproject.com. It's a brand and company that's created a wonderful experience of product lines of hot cereals and instant oatmeals and granola products. They were employees of Campbell Soup with me at the time and they were led by Chip Heim and Megan Shea. They would do some research, they were meeting with families in Texas to learn about their food and you know, just their life. They were on the way to a family and they just said, “Okay, let's just go in one last time and do some research with this family”. So Chip and Megan are there and there, they kind of saw that the neighborhood needed some support as a poor neighborhood. They walked in and there was no food in the pantry, zero food in the house. As they started talking to the resident, it was all about how she struggled to feed the family and how they're having a hard time. The team went back to the office and did nothing for a year with that information. A year later, they're in another home doing some research - a similar situation. They thought, ‘what are we doing?’ That led them to founding the Soulful Project. So for me, it was a great realization that after a year you experienced the same thing,  the entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. We need to do something about it. That's what led to launching the soulful project. And they've got national distribution across the US and you buy one and you give one, which goes to a local food bank, and they've got distribution in a, in a bunch of different retailers. I'm really proud of the efforts they made to form a public benefit company, and really be entrepreneurial when they had a cushy corporate job.

 

CHRIS:

Some of those characteristics that we hear a lot of the time about resilience thinking outside the box, agile thinking also come to mind there. One thing that struck me about Arjo, as we talked through, was about being first and anticipating trends. Spanner Works was really early days search engine marketing until it got taken over by iCrossing. But Arjo talks about how he wrestled with the business model for developers, which basically meant that you had to put all the effort in up front before seen results and how he looked at Spanner Works and SEO, and moved it to paid for results and what he did to help formulate some of these views was look at the Google IP to see what was coming down the road. 

 

If we challenge ourselves, do we really do that effectively, that future trend piece, that early warning system. Most importantly, do we just think about it rather than actually getting on and doing it? And the trend that I saw that again has really sort of shaped my life really was around email marketing and seeing how that was starting to have such a great big impact - that led me onto digital marketing as a career choice. Now it's really about understanding that marketing is very much following what tech is doing in moving from an in-source to a freelance virtual support model, which is why I founded Moreno Marketing. 

 

SAM:

Yeah, and that's so smart catching on to that trend. On my side, I'm still being bitten by the bug as well. I'm co-founder of CI Squared, which is communication through storytelling. We're a behavior change company. Similar to you, seeing a huge factor of how communication is so fundamental to everything we do. There's a lot of miscommunication, misunderstanding and disagreement happening in the world, around us, in the world of working on a personal level.

 

We help people really unlock their ability to connect, understand, and inspire people through communication. We use storytelling to help do that. That entrepreneurial spirit is coming through in that venture that I'm up to now, but I'm looking at my network and I talked about some former colleagues when I was at Campbell. Now I'm seeing colleagues starting up their own ventures. There's a company called True Places, by a great colleague called Nelson Warley - he co-founded it with another guy, Ben Clapper. There's something to how the corporate experience actually translates into the entrepreneurial world. 

 

So, for a lot of our listeners, they're probably thinking, ‘Hey, this is not for me’, but actually it probably is for you, because if you're a co-founder of a business it's about finding a partnership,  an alliance with someone who may have an initial thought of an idea, but then you can bring perspective in terms of how to handle vision and how to build a vision, managing and working with risk strategy, to see market opportunities and product opportunities, the business planning, recruiting, and retaining people, managing customers and revenue, the KPIs and financials. So there's a lot of experiences that add value, and of course the skills of business leadership. I talked about communication and problem solving and that subject matter expertise that you bring. So don't just think about going it alone; from listening to me and Arjo is that there's a power in bringing what you have to the entrepreneurial space.

 

‘The Daughter Effect’

 

CHRIS:

Absolutely. Well, how about this for vision? Our goal was to take the entire design ecosystem, integrate it into one page and then make it accessible to the whole world. That sounds pretty audacious, doesn't it? So Melanie Perkins is the 32 year old co-founder and CEO of Canva, free to use online design platform. She started the company in Australia in 2013 in a bid to make design accessible to all. Which again is a great ambition - she's certainly fulfilling that. She is now one of the tech's youngest, female CEOs, and more importantly, is that the tenacity in the approach that she took to actually get this setup is amazing. One of the things that struck me when I was reading about it was that she was at a conference in 2010 in Perth.  She met a Silicon Valley investor, a guy called Bill Tai, and he invited her over to San Francisco to pitch her idea. She got on a plane and went over there and she pitched it. 

 

Hours later, he opened up his address book and connected her with a whole load of contacts. She was then able to start fulfilling her vision. Now the fascinating thing for me, is when you look at the story and you think about clarity of vision, about tenacity, but less than a third of tech-based startups have a female founder. The team is now 700 strong and going very, very strong as well, but it puts a lot of pressure on yourself. I think it's interesting to reflect on why that is. Only a third of startups actually have a female founder. 

 

SAM:

What 2 better people qualified to talk about that, than two guys on a podcast and mansplain why it doesn't happen, but be honest, let's get candid. You know, we need to be as inclusive as possible in this space and realize the real challenges that there's real under investment and the lack of investment in female founders. I'm reminded of the work at backstage capital, which is led by a black woman called Arlan Hamilton - very vocal. She's been calling out the industry for years now about the lack of inclusion and also the fact that the industry doesn't find minority or female founders, but she's actually doing something about it. 

 

I've been learning a lot about the Female Founders' Fund. I think Goldman Sachs did some research and they showed that one of the fastest ways to accelerate change and effectively begin to address the racial wealth gap is to listen to and invest in black women. They've focused on a wealth gap, it's relationship with economic disadvantages and public and private investment opportunities to close these gaps. So, a lot of folks may roll their eyes and think, ‘oh yeah, you're banging on’, but there's more data and evidence. There's something called ‘The Daughter Effect’ and venture capital firms at which senior partners had more daughters and sons, they hired more women partners and guess what? - they performed better than their competitors. The argument that data is indicating that if the typical venture capital firm increases the fraction of female partners by 10 percentage points, from the average 8, that it is currently. ie, from 8 to 18 that's 23.2 billion additional toddlers being raised. ‘The Daughter Effect’ is not just nice to have, it actually is shown to increase performance. So funding women and really employing and advocating for women throughout the ecosystem is clearly a win and a business positive, but also societal positive impact. 

 

The Power of Questions

 

CHRIS:

Absolutely Sam. You get to that point of: why are you really in it as well? You know, what is driving you as a founder, as an entrepreneur? Once you think you have the answer, you have to ask again - no - “why are you really in it?” It's interesting as you strip away yourself and your motives, you get to this core part of being an entrepreneur itself, which is about asking questions.

 

SAM:

There's a great bit in the interview where Arjo talks about questions. He was speaking specifically, a story about talking with his daughter and he doesn't really think about retaining knowledge because it's more about the power of asking questions of other people to uncover that. Entrepreneurs are really great at doing that. We talked about the power of questions in episode three of this, of this podcast, marketing transformation tips, tricks, and hacks. I personally found power in asking questions -  one of my favorite ones is asking people, “Hey, what's on your hard drive? What's on your PC? What's in your filing cabinet that no one else knows about?” You'll be amazed to find what you learn. 

 

There's a buddy of mine, he's called Michael Saubert, he showed me this innovation he was working on. I said, “that’s not bad, what else you got that no one knows about?” He then proceeded to tell me a story - he was baking with his daughter, they were cooking. They were using a mixer and they had to pour things in from the side of the mixer, Standmixer. And his daughter said, “why do we have to keep pouring it from the side? Can't we just. Keep pouring it from the top?” - and he stopped. He thought about it and he said, why not? Long story short, he patents, this idea creates this innovation and now it's in the market. It's called the Ovation Mixer. It's just an awesome fact to know that that really came from the question. His daughter asked and he acted on it. There's this idea of propelling questions - check the challenge, the status quo. ‘How might we?’ questions that we can respond to. Those solutions flow from asking great propelling questions. 

 

There's a great book called ‘A Beautiful Constraint' by Mark Barden and Adam Morgan and another great book by a guy called Warren Burger. It's called ‘A Book of Beautiful Questions’. I love the fact he calls himself a question ologist, as a profession. And so there's lots of resources that you can use in order to ask better questions. 

 

CHRIS:

Yeah. I think we've reflected on that in previous episodes about the skill that it takes to ask a decent question, it's something you have to push yourself on. Isn't it? 

 

SAM:

A quick last point -  when we were talking with Arjo, he talked about what the best question he asked was. It was very reflective - “‘Is this right for me?’ This is in context that you said, basically I now turned down a lot of panel invitations. I always challenge them to say, have you got a woman that can do it instead of me? That's one way that we can start to make change happen, that we disrupt our own comfort. So I love the fact that he's asking himself the question really, which is projecting onto things like speaking opportunities he gets. That's just a simple way that you can use your power to help others - to address some of the challenges that we talked about, the lack of inclusion and representation, especially in the entrepreneurial space that we talked about earlier. 

 

CHRIS:

And I think that was something else when we were reflecting about characteristics of entrepreneurs, it's about self-belief, but that is different to self-interest? Is it possible to do this without putting all yourself into it? One of the interesting things when we were talking to Arjo was there was a very strong sense of self in there; a selflessness as well actually. When you were looking at some of the things that he was doing, he was the first to admit that it absolutely took 24 hours, 365 days to actually put yourself into it. It's really interesting when you look at the impact it can have on your life and your mental wellbeing. There's a good article called ‘How to be an Entrepreneur and Protect Yourself from Divorce’. There's also a really interesting article by Sifted, which is about the unsung heroes or wives and the families that support you right from the start. What is fascinating, if you think about those two points, you think about Mackenzie Bezos and the role that is well-documented in terms of setting up Amazon - what she's done since and how she's taken her share of the profits and the good causes that she's put towards that. The idea of what next? Where do you go from there? How do you re-energize that difficult second album? Let alone, how would you let the younger generation come through? Which was a key point Arjo was talking about. 

 

So Sam time is getting on. It's been a great episode we could carry on, but I think we should try and bring it to a close. Do you want to talk to us about the three key takeouts and reflections of this session?

 

Three Key Takeaways

 

  1. First one I'd say is check-in with spouses and partners. We just kind of echoed that point. All your mentors and sponsors. This is not to be siloed, don't go alone. There are other people in your life; loved ones in the network that you should have relationships with and continue to be mindful of that.

 

  1. Secondly - challenge your motives. Is there a deeper sense of purpose or motivation behind this endeavor, this idea, this innovation that you're looking to bring to life? 

 

  1. Thirdly - ask difficult or propelling questions, the best entrepreneurs do that eloquently and persistently. 

 

CHRIS:

So next week we have an interview with Yin Rani, a fascinating lady who has gone from agency side to client side to consultant. She now looks after the interests of an 18 billion pound industry. She describes herself as a student of marketing and it's riveting to find out how she continues to learn. You should definitely tune in, you're going to learn a lot, we certainly did. 

 

SAM:

Absolutely looking forward to that episode, Chris, it's going to be another corker and as I usually sign off without further ado, have a great week across the pond.