30 Jan January 30, 2020 – Dave Kerpen and Positive Disruption Joanna Martinez
Dave Kerpen – Serial Entrepreneur – Cofounder and coCEO of Apprentice – Chairman of Likeable.com – New York Times Best-Selling Author of The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want – Read interview highlights here
The only thing I now know, having started four companies, is that
things are going to change. I see lots of owners that are too rigid.
They confuse focus with rigidity.
Dave Kerpen is a serial entrepreneur and New York Times Best Selling Author. He is the cofounder and coCEO of Apprentice, a platform that connects entrepreneurs with bright, hard working college students; the Chairman of Likeable Local, a social media software company serving thousands of small businesses, and the chairman and cofounder of Likeable Media, an award-winning social media and content marketing agency for big brands. Likeable Media is the only 3-time WOMMY Award winner for excellence from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the US according to INC Magazine for 4 consecutive years. Dave has been featured on the Today Show, CNBC’s “On the Money”, BBC, ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Early Show, the New York Times, and countless blogs. He has also keynoted at dozens of conferences across the globe including Singapore, Athens, Dubai, San Francisco, Cologne, Toronto, Bangkok, and Mexico City. He is also the New York Times bestselling writer of Likeable Social Media, Likeable Business, and Likeable Leadership. His newest book, The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want, is out now.
Joanna Martinez – Founder of Supply Chain Advisors, LLC – Author of A Guide to Positive Disruption: How to Thrive and Make an Impact in the Churn of Today’s Corporate World
You can make really good changes! Anybody! You don’t need
special training, you just need to step back and say to yourself,
‘What doesn’t make sense here?’
Joanna Martinez has a career spanning four decades in corporate America. As a corporate executive, she led transformation initiatives of various types within pharmaceutical, beverage, consumer products, financial services, facilities management, and real estate industries. Today, as founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC, her clients range from start-ups and professional organizations to Fortune 500 companies. Joanna is a noted speaker and thought leader on global procurement and supply chain topics and works as a consultant, advisor, and coach. Twice designated a “Pro to Know,” she was named a Distinguished Alumna by Rutgers College of Engineering, where she sits on the school’s Industry Advisory Board. Joanna has been recognized by multiple organizations for innovation or customer excellence.
Highlights from Dave’s Interview
I was with this awesome woman and we both had a marketing background. She had been married before though. She had her wedding in New York City, a traditional wedding. She probably spent $100,000 on the wedding, and it led to a divorce within a couple years. So she was pretty determined when we got engaged to not have another big, fancy wedding and spend a lot of money. But at the same time, I really wanted a huge wedding. I have this larger-than-life personality, like on reality TV, social media, and all this big stuff. We had this idea that if we got married at a baseball stadium, we could potentially create a sponsored wedding and get the whole thing paid for. We pitched the idea to a minor league team, a minor league affiliate of the Mets, the Brooklyn Cyclones. And the general manager of the Cyclones said, “This is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard, but somehow, I think it just might work. I’ll give you guys a shot.” And so, we got the sponsorship inventory from the game to sell in exchange for getting the rights to get married and getting free tickets and all that all that fun stuff. Our first pitch was 1-800-flowers.com. We had a relationship with them already. They were the first to sign on and they gave us $7,000 worth of flowers in exchange for being a vendor and throwing out bridal bouquets to the crowd. Part of the game promotion. And then one thing led to another and eventually Smirnoff sponsored the alcohol and David’s bridal sponsored the bridesmaids’ gowns and after they sponsored the tuxedos and Bright Smile came in and whitened our teeth. We ended up raising $100,000 in sponsorships. We raised $20,000 for charity, for the MS Society. And we had this amazing wedding. I got married to the love of my life in front of 500 friends and family and 5000 strangers that stayed for the wedding after the game. And it was, of course, an amazing day, because I got married to the love of my life, but it turned out to be very, very successful marketing promotion as well. We generated about $25,000,000 worth of earned media, CBS, ABC, NBC, thousands of blogs, The New York Times… you name it, we got tons and tons of media. Our ballpark vendor, our wedding vendors actually said, “This was awesome. What are you guys going to do next?” and we couldn’t get married again, so we started our first company. That was back in 2006, and I guess the rest is history.
1-800-Flowers and Entenmann’s who sponsored our desserts were two of the wedding vendors that wanted us to do something for them, and we couldn’t get married again. But we thought we were pretty good at creating word-of-mouth and creating promotions. So the focus of our company early on was word-of-mouth and events and promotions. We did a series of events for 1-800-Flowers.com where we were working with senior centers to help teach them how to use the internet. And it was all in promotion of 1-800-Flowers.com’s secondary holiday items. So we were actually promoting Kwanzaa and Hanukkah if you can believe that. That was the very first promotion we did with them. We ended up working with Verizon and helping them to create house parties where somebody with Verizon FiOS would host a party and watch a big event on TV. We would help cater it, we would help pay for all their friends and family to come over. And then the friends would see how awesome the FiOS service was on TV and they would sign up for FiOS. We were doing these word-of-mouth marketing, experiential events. And as social media opened up beyond, as Facebook opened up beyond college students, as Twitter began to mature, as things like Instagram and LinkedIn actually were created, we realized that social media was a much more effective and efficient way to do word-of-mouth marketing than at ballparks, stadium events and all these experiential events that we had created. We pivoted pretty early on in 2007, in our first year in business, to focus on social media, and the company really took off from there.
Last year we started Be Likable Day in an effort to put some more kindness back into the world, back into the internet and back into social media, and it was a huge success. Last year, we reached over 75 million people in over 45 countries. And so, we’re bringing it back again for the second year. I believe that day is February 26. It’s asking folks to commit to just one act of kindness on social media that day, compliment a friend, endorse or recommend somebody on LinkedIn, promote somebody else’s event or work on a social network, go out of your way to do something nice. And it’s our belief, it’s my belief that by each of us committing to being a little bit kinder and a little bit more likeable, that Day will get people into better habits and hopefully make the world a better place one person at a time.
Each of us has a little bit more time that collectively makes the vitriol a little bit less meaningful and a little bit less impactful. Go to belikable.com, sign up to take the pledge to be more likable on February 26, 2020, and you’re doing your part. I mean, ultimately we can’t control others, we can only control ourselves. So that’s my pitch.
I’m delighted to talk about Apprentice. You’ll be the very first to hear publicly about a new thing that we’re about to launch, because it’s a perfect example of the sort of pivot that we talked about earlier. Now, when you first launch a company, the only thing that I now know, having done this four times, is that things are going to change. I see a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs that are too rigid in their thinking. They confuse focus with rigidity. And focus is important too, but flexibility is really important. Things change as we go.
First, a little about the history of Apprentice. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my first few companies to hire a lot of kids while they’re in college, have them work for me remotely while they’re in school, and have them come to work for me after they graduate. Michelle was my first, she was a senior at Syracuse. She was my first EA way back in 2006, right after the wedding, when we first launched Likable. Then she came to work for me full time after she graduated, and she worked for us for over five years. She’s now doing social media marketing for a Fortune 50 company.
Then Megan worked for me. She was my first employee at Likeable Local, my software company. Then Theresa worked for me while she was at Emerson and then she ended up co-authoring my second book with me. She was with us for over eight years. Then Rob came to work for me. While he was in Hamilton, he worked for me for over two years as my EA; he ended up co-authoring the third edition of Likeable Social Media with me. He ended up working on a million-dollar project for a Likable client, and helped me with numerous things. Then he came to me last year and he said, “Dave, I think you’re really onto something here. You’ve been so valuable in teaching me so much the last couple years. I’ve learned more from you than I learned in school. And I know I’ve really helped you in a lot of meaningful ways.” He said, “We should scale this idea.” And I thought, “Rob, you’re totally right. Let’s do it.” And so, Rob went from being my executive distant college student to being my business partner on this new venture called Apprentice.
The idea behind Apprentice is we connect entrepreneurs and small business owners with really smart, driven, motivated college students that are looking for real world experience and a little mentorship. We launched it in beta in the fall, and we now have 10 terrific entrepreneur customers and apprentices. We’ve been able to recruit kids from some really terrific schools like Cornell; Columbia University; Michigan Business School, Penn.; just some fantastic schools, and some fantastic kids. And it’s amazing; it really creates a win-win. But what I found was the business model is pretty straightforward. Companies pay me $2,000 a month, and I pay the apprentice $1,000 a month. So the college kids make a really great living and the entrepreneurs and business owners are paying $24,000 a year for a rockstar that, yeah, sure, they’re remote and they’re part time, but these kids will make $100,000, $50,000 when they graduate. These are Ivy League, brilliant kids that entrepreneurs wouldn’t have access to normally.
All that said, we realized that some entrepreneurs couldn’t afford an apprentice. We just pivoted today and said, in addition to an apprentice, you can have an apprentice share. Instead of paying me $2000 a month, you can pay me $800 a month, and you can share your apprentice with two other entrepreneurs. But now you’re getting a third of this brilliant kid, and you’re only paying $800 a month. I already have a whole bunch of people that are interested in that, and I’m super excited about what we’re doing. Because over time, we’re going to be able to help a lot of entrepreneurs; we’re going to be able to help a lot of college students. This is something that’s sorely lacking in higher education where kids parents’ pay $75,000,000,000. I know you’re a father. Parents pay $70,000, $75,000 a year, and many kids graduate with a four year degree without having any knowledge of how to do anything in the real world. It’s a horrible, horrible thing that we’re helping solve for the students and for entrepreneurs. They just don’t have the bandwidth to do it all themselves, but maybe they can’t afford a $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year full-time executive assistant. I know we’re solving a really important problem for them as well.
They can do anything. We have proven that they can do anything that a very smart, driven person can do. The only thing they can’t do, because it’s remote, is they can’t get your coffee and they can’t make photocopies. They can’t do anything for which their physical presence is required. But yes, of course, social media scheduling, travel, research, anything that an admin can do. But also higher level things. I had an entrepreneur customer, they came to me, he’s got a $25,000,000 business, about 60 employees, and he said, “You know, I really need to redo my billing system. It’s a mess. I think this is a two-year project. Do you think this is something that an apprentice can do?” And I said, “Sure, why not?” So we brought on an apprentice for him, a Junior at Cornell, super smart young lady, and she took on the billing system. She completed the entire system that he thought would take two to three years. She did it in three months. What you can give them… you’re only limited by your own creativity. I’ve been delighted with the work that they’ve done so far. They’re there, they’re just not your typical EA. I describe it as EA because that’s the best way to describe it, but they’re really more like a COO in training or a CMO in training. These are just really, really bright, resourceful, entrepreneurial-minded folks. That’s more what they’re about.
Now, to your point. They are social media natives. So for any entrepreneurs out there that are nervous about the social media world that they live in, they are definitely coming in with social media knowledge. And we actually have a whole curriculum that we teach them. So in addition to their class schedule, in addition to their work for their entrepreneurs, they take a weekly class with me. Eventually we’ll scale that by making videos, but for now, I’m personally teaching it. And I’m teaching them all the things that I’ve taught my apprentices over the last 12 years, and few firsts. I’m teaching them social media marketing and email communication and spreadsheet analysis and WordPress and LinkedIn prospecting and all the things that they’re going to need in order to do their jobs as well as possible. It’s so crazy, crazy to me, that this is the stuff that you actually need. And yet this is the stuff that’s not taught.
I’ll be the first person to say that for in certain fields, in medicine and law, then obviously certain things are required in terms of understanding and knowledge. But in the world of business and communication that I’ve lived in the last 12 years, I don’t think I’ve ever once asked an employee to tell me about art history or calculus or geology or all the stuff that they learned. So I think, I know, that what we’re doing is sorely needed at the college level, and that’s one thing that I’m super excited about as a parent, because it’s true. I want my kids to go through the same experience. I want to give for others the same experience that I would want my kids to have.
I would say my biggest entrepreneurial pet peeve is well, there’s a lot of what I call hustle porn out there. There’s this idea that the 24/7 hustle is necessary, and you’ve got to keep moving and keep working and not sleep and not spend time with your kids and make all those sacrifices. I’ve been fortunate, and not to brag, but I’ve been successful beyond my wildest dreams without sacrificing my time with my kids. That’s my non-negotiable. Yes, I work hard. But I’m home for dinner every day, and that’s really important to me. I think that there are some folks that put it out there that in order to be successful you have to make all the sacrifices and hustle nonstop, and I just I just don’t think that’s true.
I’m organizing playdates it seems like constantly, but hopefully that’s the stuff they’ll remember. Every single Friday, I take my four-and-a-half-year-old to the supermarket. Every Friday afternoon we go, and I make it an adventure for him. I’m in a supermarket last week, and we’re having fun. He’s hanging off the cart, and I’m zooming through the aisles, and we’re making it a whole adventure. And this older woman stops me. She says, “Excuse me,” and I am so certain that she is going to yell at me, and she’s going to tell me I’m a horrible dad, and what I’m doing is putting them at risk, and he shouldn’t be hanging off the cart, and all this, and I’m so nervous. And she says, “He’s going to remember these times for the rest of his life.” She said, “He’s not going to remember learning the ABCs. And he’s not going to remember a lot of the facts he learned in school, but he’s going to remember moments like this.” I thought it was the sweetest, kindest thing. And it was really nice, because I was so surprised, because I really thought she was going to criticize me. And it was really nice at the end of the day as a reminder that, as much as I care about building businesses and changing the world and really thinking big, it’s the moments like that with our kids, with our loved ones, that are absolutely most important. If I could leave listeners with as excited and ambitious as I am about apprentice, if I can leave folks with one thing, I would definitely remind folks that not a single person ever said, “I wish I had worked more,” on their deathbed. At the end of the day, it’s just so important to keep in perspective what’s most important.
It’s fun. It’s fun, this is the first time I’ve done the interview where I wasn’t just saying all things Likable. Likeable Media is our company for big brands. Like a Local is for small businesses looking for some social media help. Anyone that wants an apprentice, you can go to chooseapprentice.com. To learn more about Apprentice, chooseapprentice.com. And I’m on every social network if people have questions or comments. Responsiveness is a really important part of my core values, so if anyone has comments or questions, you can hit me up at Dave Kerpin. I also host free office hours where I coach people for free every single Thursday. You can go to schedule at Dave.com if you are looking for some free coaching.