Growth Hacking Interview Series #120: Adam Steele
At 22, with no previous business experience, Adam left his day job to chase the dream of business ownership. He started out by peddling Gmail address’ by the bundle. Today, he leads a team of 30+, remote team members, runs 2 successful companies (is currently building 3, 4 & 5) and hosts The Steele Entrepreneur Show.
When not working his face off, he can be found rolling on the Jiu Jitsu mats, tinkering in his garden or with his nose in a book. Adam's mission is to share his experiences, past and present, with anyone audacious enough to want to be great.
How did you start out as a marketer?
I did a short stint at an affiliate marketing company, after breaking away from my government job. Once I'd seen the potential, I left started my own marketing company, using some of the methods I'd learned by observing the affiliates, BUT for small/medium size businesses instead of big advertisers. Of course it did not quite go the way I wanted, and I found myself selling Gmail addresses to SEOs for a little while instead.
Looking back what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
Discipline. I have good work ethic, but consistency has always been tough for me. As time has passed I've created better systems to compensate.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
I believe it was a referral from a colleague. A little SEO and web design. We didn't do a great job to be honest.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
The people I am afforded to surround myself with. Team members especially, but also the clients. It brings me more joy than I can explain to see my team members prosper and enjoy life.
We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?
Freelancing is a great way to have an education paid for. However, as quickly as possible, I would aim to get away from the exchange of time for money. Check out the 4-Hour Workweek and find a product you can sell in lieu of, or at the same time.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
Hire a bookkeeper, accountant and lawyer sooner. I forewent much $$$ due to my ignorance. Speaking of which, I did not read. This was also a mistake, and one I am working hard to make up for.
How is your typical work day structured?
Wake at six, breakfast, reading, planning the day, couple hours of thoughtful work, check email for emergencies, calls if an (1 hour blocked off), jiu jitsu, lunch, calls if any (1 hour blocked off), couple more hours of thoughtful work, check email for emergencies, task work, more thoughtful work, 15 min team meeting, coaching, dinner, emails, planning for following day, reading, bed by 12/1230.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
Starting a business and any other subsequent businesses since.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
Majority of the time will be spent getting to know the client, visit their office, meet staff and understand their business. What are their goals, challenges, KPIs? Try to sit in on some meetings, after work events, and pick up on their vibe/culture. A lot of this can even be accomplished remotely. The rest is pretty typical. Stylesheets, mockups, etc.
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
The better part of 7 years. It's a very short sighted way of doing things. I am finding that I can do just as much, if not more (and do it a lot better), if I just focus on one thing at a time. For example, I might dedicate a week to just one thing – no other project in the meantime. I try to run all my companies this way.
Sometimes a month at a time, I won't pay any mind to another business, and just focus in on one. If I've done things right in that month, and I have a good team to execute against whatever I worked on, it will be good on its own for a while.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I am really interested in personal branding and video marketing. Basically where those two intersect. We've created The Steele Entrepreneur Show to try our hand at this. It's a slow grind, but we're having a lot of fun learning.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
I try to stay in the game, and be a real practitioner. I can't be a committed to this these days, so I rely on my team members to stay up to date, and I learn from them. In the past, blogs and podcasts.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
We created this silly referral spam tool a year or so ago. We update it every once in a while, send out an email update, but that's about it. It's been a nice way to do something for the SEO community.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
Remote by the folks at Basecamp.
What advice would you share with other Marketer's who want to become more productive?
Read the Effective Executive by Peter Drucker and introduce more discipline in your life outside of work. It will creep into your work life too.
If there's one Marketing Guru you'd recommend who and why.
I watch folks like Gary Vaynerchuk pretty closely. I am really interested in video marketing right now, and he's built a pretty impressive team and platform.