Neil Patel, Co-founder, Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics
11 Business Philosophies to Live and Die By
As an entrepreneur you’re going to have to find your own path… both for your work and personal life. It took me years to learn what I know now and I am still not done learning.
Believe it or not, the best entrepreneurial lessons I’ve learned have been the simple ones. Ones that stare you in the face every day, but yet you miss to see them.
Here are 11 simple philosophies that change my entrepreneurial life:
Don’t make excuses, make improvements
In most cases things won’t work out the way you want them to. From missing revenue projections, from launching your product on time and even getting sued for silly little things.
It’s natural to make excuses on why things didn’t go the way you wanted. But that won’t do you any good because it won’t solve your problems.
Instead of making excuses focus on solving the problems. They probably won’t get fixed right away, but as long as you are making improvements you’ll eventually get there.
Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done
You’re going to get tired of being an entrepreneur and you’ll probably even get burned out, especially when things aren’t going well. What’s helped me succeed over the years is that I am persistent.
It doesn’t matter whether I am exhausted, or if I feel that I’ve put enough hours in the day, I just don’t ever stop until things are done.
The moment you stop is the day you fail. As long as you keep on chugging along, eventually you will accomplish your goals.
Honesty is a very expensive gift, do not expect it from cheap people
As an entrepreneur you are going to have to look to other people for feedback and advice. Over the years I’ve learned that not all advice is equal, as some people give better advice than others.
The best advice you are ever going to get is the truth. The truth may hurt, but it will save you time and money.
Just don’t expect the truth from people who care about saving your feelings. That won’t help you accomplish your goals, it will just put you back.
Work hard in silence and keep your success to yourself
When I started to do somewhat well I wanted to show off. Tell people about my successes, buy fancy objects to show off to friends and tell the world how “I made it”.
In the long run, buying materialistic objects didn’t make me happy. And telling people about my success just caused people to think I was arrogant and even worse it caused more competitors.
Don’t worry about telling people about your success, as it won’t do you any good. Just focus on your work and keep your mouth shut because the last thing you need is more competitors.
Don’t get sidetracked by people who are not on track
It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially by other people. If you don’t focus on your core business model, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
One the best ways to avoid this is to not let people who don’t have their life together affect your business decisions.
If you want to do well, you need to start hanging out with like-minded people. By being around people who have their life together and are successful, you are less likely to get sidetracked.
Behind every successful person are a lot of unsuccessful years
When people look at what I have accomplished, most of the time they feel that I’ve done it over the last few years.
What they forget to realize is that I have been an entrepreneur for over 10 years.
And during that 10-year period, I’ve lost millions of dollars, made more mistakes than I can count, and put in countless hours into my businesses.
Most entrepreneurs don’t strike it rich with their first start-up, a lot of people fail before they succeed. So as long as you keep pushing forward as an entrepreneur, your odds of succeeding will go up over time.
Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it
Businesses come and go, but the one thing you should protect more than anything else is your reputation. Your reputation affects any new business ventures, or a job you may try to get later down the road.
Treat your reputation as if it is more valuable than gold. Always help others out, and never speak badly about other people. Be so kind and helpful that if someone spoke badly about you, no one would believe them.
Sometimes when you follow your dream, it opens the door for others to be able to follow theirs
Entrepreneurship isn’t just about you. You won’t be able to fulfil your dreams without the help of other people.
As you are following your dreams, make sure you don’t forget about the people who helped you get there. Find out what their dreams and goals are and help them accomplish them.
My business partner and I have continually helped all of our team members reach their dreams over the last ten years and this has also helped us retain most of our valuable team members. This is important because it is really hard to find good talent… so you might as well take care of them.
Just because you are struggling does not mean you are failing
Every great success requires some kind of struggle. Nothing worthwhile is easy, so don’t expect your entrepreneurial career to be easy.
You’re going to have to work hard, fight through the tough times and keep pushing forward. If being an entrepreneur was so easy and it didn’t require any hardship, everyone would be one.
So when you are struggling, don’t give up, keep pushing forward until you see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The hardest thing to open is a closed mind
No matter how good of a salesman you are, some people just don’t want to hear you talk. They have a closed mind and they feel that they know everything.
You could try to be persistent with people like this, but I’ve found that the hardest thing to open is a closed mind. So instead of wasting my time, I just move on.
You’re going to be strapped for time as an entrepreneur, especially when you are just starting out because you won’t have much cash or people to help you. So do yourself a favour and don’t waste your time with people who are closed mind.
If you help people get what they want, you can get what you want
The lesson that took me the longest to learn is that you have to help people out to get what you want. Business is all about relationships and you can’t keep asking people for favours without repaying them.
Over the years I’ve learned that if I help people out, they will go an extra mile to help me out. And if you help people without expecting anything in return, people will go an extra 10 miles to help you.
Keep paying it forward by helping everyone out there, no matter how big or small they may be. Sooner or later the universe will pay it back tenfold.
- Neil’s secrets to driving traffic
- What good marketing is, and how to do it
- Thoughts on content marketing and the future
- Start up tactics for growing and scaling
- Key entrepreneurship lessons that Neil learnt from losing millions of dollars with his first business
Full Transcript of Podcast with Neil Patel
Nathan: Hello and welcome to the Foundr podcast. In today’s episode, we talk with Neil Patel. This guy is just an absolute weapon when it comes to marketing and generating traffic online. He’s very well known in the online marketing community. And this is actually quite an old interview that I did about a year or so ago.
When I was listening to it to record this pre-round audio, I was just like, “Wow,” I was such an amateur back then when I did my interviews.This was like you know, one of the first ones that I’d ever done. But there’s a lot of gold in there surprisingly even though I was stumbling and you know, all over the place, there was a lot of interesting stuff in this interview that Neil shares, certainly around how he believes you can build a successful business and start-up.
He runs two very successful start-ups, Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg, super cool products and yeah he’s a really cool guy and it was a really interesting conversation. It’s funny how a year ago Neil was harping on to me about content marketing and one year later, which is now, it’s just crazy how much people are using content as a strategy to drive traffic and get more sales and get more leads and grow your email list and really just grow your business.
So it’s a really good interview. The audio quality isn’t that great because I never used to record with a nice microphone. I actually used to record funnily enough, in the spare office where I was working my day job on my lunch breaks. This is the kinda hustle that it took to get where I am today and it’s only the beginning. So sit back, you’re in for a treat. This is a really interesting interview with Neil.
If you’re enjoying the podcast, please do me a favor and leave us a five-star review. If you want, check out the magazine Ton of Gold in there. It’s where I spend most of my time and it’s really like I keep saying my life’s work. So I’d love to hear what you think, get in touch with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, feelings, any recommendations on how I can keep improving the podcast. Even people you might want me to interview, I’d love to hear from you. So that’s it from me and let’s jump into this episode, enjoy guys.
So today we are speaking with Neil Patel. Now I could go all day about running through his massive accolades, he has an extremely impressive list of accomplishments. He runs multiple software companies, he runs an extremely successful blog and he’s achieved so much at the age of 27. You will see in the interview with the article alongside this interview what Neil has actually done. So I’d like to just cut straight to the chase and thank you for joining us, Neil.
Neil: Thank you for having me.
Nathan: So let’s just go through your entrepreneurial journey and how you got started. Now I know that you started at a very young age and I understand that at one point you were selling vacuums and you’ve mentioned that it placed a big impact on your career now. Can you tell us a bit about how you got started and a little bit about that?
Neil: Sure, the way I ended up getting started was I was looking for a job when I was 16 years old and as I was looking for a job, I was on this site called Monster.com. And I realized it was a publicly traded company, clicked on the stock symbol, I was like, “What is this?” And I saw how much money they were making because when they’re a publicly traded company after reviewing their financials I was like, “Wow, if I copy this site and because I’m a copycat and I just do one percent of what they’re making, I’ll be rich.”
It didn’t end up working out that way but I tried being a copycat, I didn’t make any money but that’s how I got started. And when I put up the website I realized that you have to get traffic to a website to make it successful, people just don’t naturally come. So I had to work to try to make it successful.
Nathan: Okay, so can you tell us a little bit about how did that end up going?
Neil: Yeah, so the site failed but I got good at increasing traffic and eventually, you know, I was in a college class where I gave a speech on how search engines work. Someone hired me to do the marketing for their site. A long story short provided a great amount of results. The owner of that company has sent onto ad agency and he started providing me more and more clients and that’s how I grew.
Nathan: I see, so you just started off running your own consultancy or this is afterwards or before? Can you take us a little bit through that journey?
Neil: Yeah, I started running my own consultancy before any of my other software companies.That’s how I got started in the space and then I was able to use that consulting money to create a lot of the software companies.
Nathan: I see, so why is it that you started with the lead generation route? What is it that excited you about the internet that you thought that you could make money besides the fact that you saw that Monster.com was making a lot of money? Was it just that or….?
Neil: Yeah, for me is I couldn’t the Me Too company because Monster.com was making a lot of money and I didn’t know what else to do. So I was like, “Someone else is making money, why not just copy them and I’ll make a lot of money too?” It doesn’t work that way but that’s what I thought, I was a 16-year-old kid.
Nathan: I see, so can you run us through the next stage of what happened?
Neil: Sure, so the site was up, I didn’t get traffic, right? I had to learn how to do it myself because I I didn’t have much money. And then, from there I still didn’t make money after I got the traffic because I didn’t know that you had to take credit cards online to make money. As foolish as it may sound I didn’t know how to do that, I’m not a developer, right? So I was losing a ton of money and eventually you know, I had to close down the business. But the skill set I got from running it was I learned how to drive traffic to sites.
Nathan: I see, so then you went on to start this consultancy?
Neil: That’s correct.
Nathan: Okay, so can you tell us the key things that you learned from that business failing?
Neil: Sure, the key things that I ended up learning is one, solve a unique problem in the marketplace. And what I mean by that is don’t go out there and create another Me Too company. Solve a unique problem enough people are facing. Two, you need to learn how to market a company, right? You can’t just create a product no matter how good or bad it is and expect that people will come, you gotta learn how to do marketing. And you have to learn how to do it on a budget, you can’t compete with other people. Then you get Google Adwords or any of those expensive mediums, right?
Neil: Four, I learned that you have to be really efficient at what you’re doing, right? As an entrepreneur, there’s a ton of opportunities out there you’re gonna be faced with having less capital than other people, more competitors than you can ever imagine as time goes on. you gotta be scrappy, be able to execute fast, keep moving along, right? Use content from let’s say like the minimal, viable product or lean start-up more so. Same thing pretty much but you know, you have to be very efficient and get things out. But yeah, those are some of the things I learned from the first start-up.
Nathan: Yeah, right, so let’s move to the next part of your journey because this is when things get really interesting I feel is you built this consultancy firm on pretty much lead generation, correct?
Neil: That’s correct.
nathan: Correct? So what happened then?
Neil: Sure, so the consultancy agency grew out of word of mouth and I was able to drive traffic and find good results. And as I did that, I got more and more customers. But after a while, the word of mouth started dying down and I didn’t keep having newer and new customers coming and knocking on my door.
So what I did was I created a consultancy website where I offered my services and then I did cold calling. So I called all the people who were bidding on Google for expensive terms, right? There was this eBook I bought, “Top 1000 Most Expensive Adwords Terms,” right? And I went through the list and I called every single site that was bidding on those keywords and offered them internet marketing services.
The majority said no but the first cold caller that I locked in, the dude ended up spending $15,000 a month with us every month. And then at that point, I was like, “Whoa, this cold calling thing is worth it.”
Nathan: Yeah, no, that’s interesting because everybody’s always really nervous about making that call or cold calling and I think personally sales is a really important element to becoming an entrepreneur, a successful one at that. Do you agree?
Neil: I do agree with that.
Nathan: Now that kinda leads on to the next question is tell us about how sales has shaped your career and with the vacuum selling job that you had.
Neil: Yeah, so my first jo…Well technically my second job ever, this was before I was even entrepreneurial, was selling vacuums door to door. And that taught me to be aggressive. Because when you’re going selling a $1600 vacuum or whatever it ended up costing but it was expensive, to people who were middle-class American citizens, they can’t afford a $1600 vacuum, right?
So when I was you know, I was going door to door knocking and trying to convince people to buy them, the majority by far said no. One person said yes but then she returned the vacuum later on. And what I ended up learning from it is you’ve just gotta be aggressive. Don’t let anything stop you. If you really believe in it just keep at it. And that’s what I was doing, right? I was persistent. I tried selling every single day, never gave up.
Nathan: Just from the amount of things that you’ve completed and you’re only is it 27 or 28 now?
Neil: I’m 28.
Nathan: You just hustled extremely, extremely hard. And I think that’s something that’s very, very important. Let’s shift gears and keep going through your journey. So you’ve created this software consultancy company and it’s doing well. Now did you create this with a business partner, correct?
Nathan: Yes, now the question I wanted to ask is how do you go about finding business partners and what advice would you give to somebody about that and how do you evaluate when you actually need one?
Neil: Sure, so finding a business partner is like a marriage but even tougher. And the reason I say that is once you’re in it’s harder to get out and it’s much more messier, right? Divorce is very painful in the business world. I know that it is in personal but in business, it can be even more painful because you don’t have one or two kids, you have hundreds of kids, right, potentially if you consider all your customers, your employees. It makes it a really messy situation.
Now the way I went about finding a business partner is one, you’ve gotta know someone. So like know them for awhile. You don’t want to just get in bed and become business partners after day one. Two, you’ve gotta make sure they have complimentary skill sets. So if you’re an engineer, don’t get another engineer to be your business partner. Maybe a designer or maybe a business person, whatever it may be but someone who’s different from you skill set wise.
Then from there what you end up doing is you should test the waters before you have a business partner and you go to work with each other make sure you guys test some small stuff out with each other, make sure you jive, you get along, you’re not afraid to be open-minded with each other and stuff like that. And other than that you know, once you know what you’re really looking for just go to as many networking events as possible to try to find this perfect person. So networking events, family events, whatever it may be.
Nathan: I see, so you would say that your business partner….Would you say it’s like someone you have to get along not just professionally in complimenting each other but also, do you think you that you have to be mates, do you think, or friends?
Neil: I don’t think you have to be mates, you just have to get along professionally. But very importantly, if you have wives or girlfriends they better get along with the other person’s wives or girlfriends. I found that to be a big problem over the years with all the business partners, if the wives don’t get along it doesn’t work out.
Nathan: Oh really, interesting.
Neil: Yeah, that’s more important almost than anything else. I know as foolish as it may sound but you’ll be shocked at how many times wives can ruin a business even though it’s making millions of dollars in profit just because she’s not happy.
Nathan: Yeah, no, no, you’ve gotta keep your girlfriend or your wife happy, right? Because they keep you happy, yeah?
Neil: That’s right.
Nathan: Because there’s nothing worse than being hassled.
Neil: That’s correct.
Nathan: Awesome, so thanks for that because I think what some people struggle with when they go to start a business is you know if you have a business partner it usually is 50/50. You don’t know whether you need one. How did you work out that you needed one?
Neil: Yeah, I decided that I needed one based on the fact that I didn’t have all the skills that’s out there that I needed, right? So I found someone who did have those skill sets.
Nathan: I see, so you didn’t want to pay for a service or anything like that? Or the skill sets….
Neil: I didn’t have the money. I couldn’t pay for it and I needed help. So you can’t pay someone to hire them so what do you do? You end up partnering up with someone because you don’t have money to pay more people and they have the skills set that you don’t have.
Nathan: Yes, yes, I see. So let’s go back to your journey. So the lead generation company was doing well. So what led on from there?
Neil: Well from there I started doing consulting for people. And you know, it was foolish, I was making good money but we were tired of doing consulting for people. You know at the end of the day what I would end up doing, I was just like, “Hey, you know what could we end up doing?” And when we’re running the agency clients wanted other stuff. Like they wanted to help better understand how this traffic that we were bringing was engaging with their site. That’s how the idea of Crazy Egg came up.
And we did a piece off all our companies before them but they were small and they didn’t work out. But what we ended up learning was we’re just like, “This consulting isn’t sustainable. We’re not having fun doing this. We’re getting all of these customers who are requesting other stuff that can’t be done without software, let’s develop it.”
We developed it, launched it, had a ton of buzz. It didn’t make a ton of money at first, it was actually losing money and we were just like, “Shit, you can make a ton of money doing software,” and we love doing this because we don’t have to deal with you know, 50 consulting clients calling you every single day saying, you know, “Why is my rankings higher on Google?” And we were just tired of dealing with that so that’s how we got into the software game.
Nathan: Okay, can you tell us a little bit about Crazy Egg just briefly?
Neil: Sure, Crazy Egg is a usability analytics tool that helps you visualize where people click on your website or where they don’t click. And then from there, you can modify your design to maximize your conversion and usability.
Nathan: So how did that business go?
Neil: That business went well. It’s still growing to this day. It’s still up and running and we still own it.
Nathan: Okay, and you don’t have much involvement now with it, do you? It purely runs by itself, is that correct?
Neil: That’s correct. Small team runs by itself and yeah, it’s all self-sufficient, so….
Nathan: Awesome, so you’ve then gone on to create Kissmetrics which is another software development company that is in terms an expansion on Crazy Egg, is that correct?
Neil: That’s correct, Kissmetrics is Crazy Egg 2.0.
Nathan: Gotcha, now this is probably a question you get a bit but why would you create another company that’s 2.0 when Crazy Egg’s doing so well? Can’t you just do that within Crazy Egg?
Neil: We never thought that….One, at that time we didn’t have enough cash because we were losing money and two, we never felt like Crazy Egg was a big enough idea like a $100 million company. So we pitched it to investors and they were like, “Yeah, you should do this Kissmetrics thing.” So we spun it out of Crazy Egg and then focused on that.
Nathan: I see and that’s where you focus mainly most of your time now?
Neil: That’s correct. I spend all my time on Kissmetrics.
Nathan: I see and now I wanted to ask you a question about whether a business idea is worth pursuing. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Neil: The way a business idea is worth pursuing is if you think it’s a big enough opportunity in the market, enough people are facing that problem and you actually think you can solve it in that, you know, a practical way in which it’s affordable, easy for the end consumer, right? That’s when you go after an idea and most importantly you also have to be passionate about it. If you’re not passionate about something you’re doing, you’re going to get burned out and eventually you’re gonna quit.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s certainly right. And I know you’re an extremely hardworking guy and you wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t passionate about it. Like roughly how many hours a week do you work?
Neil: I don’t keep track anymore but I would say at least 70.
Nathan: Wow, and this is not a chore for you and that’s the really cool thing. And that’s something that you’ll find which is common amongst all entrepreneurs, myself included is I spend a lot of time working on the magazine but you don’t really keep track of it, do you? It’s just what you love doing.
Neil: Yeah, because then you’re so passionate when you’re not working you’re thinking about it anyway so might as well work on it, right?
Nathan: That’s right. On your blog, quicksprout.com, for those that are listening, definite, definite must check out blog. It’s a great blog. And you talked about how not to burn out. Can you tell us a little bit about that a bit more just briefly? How do you go about not burning out because you work a lot of hours?
Neil: So for me the biggest thing is I take breaks once a month and I hang out with friends and I party really hard. That’s my vice, right? So you gotta find your vice your vice that makes you happy and I go all out when I party once a month but only once a month.
Nathan: Yeah, okay, gotcha.
Neil: Person to person it really varies, right? I think it comes down to passion. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re gonna get burned out. That’s why most people get burned out, so….
Nathan: So can you tell us about your early influences that you think has shaped you, the path that you’re on today?
Neil: One of my earliest influencers is a guy who’s a mentor and his name is Andy Liu and Andy Liu used to live above me, he moved. I should but he’s a great guy. He actually brought me to Seattle and taught me a lot of stuff. And he taught me a lot of my business skills, sales skills, all that kinda great overall mentor.
Another person I’ve looked up to, I’ve never met him is Elon Musk. I’ve always loved what he’s done over the years, especially with Paypal and that’s when I was first of fan of his.
Nathan: I see. Now let’s switch gears a bit, I wanted to talk to you about your failures and more importantly, the key things that you’ve taken away from them because it hasn’t always been constant achievement, achievement, success, success. In everybody’s entrepreneurial journey you find that they have to fail before they do really, really well. So can you run us through some of them and some interesting things that you’ve overcome and how you’ve managed to overcome them and what you’ve taken away from them?
Neil: Sure, so the biggest failures would be that I lost a million bucks in a company in Texas. Also, that was the biggest mistake I ever made, it was a hosting company. It never got launched. But the biggest failure what I learned from that was ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the people that really matter in the business. Without good people no matter how good the idea is it just won’t succeed, right? There’s, of course, caveats to that. There’s probably rare occasions where people have to see when they suck and the idea’s great but general, 99 plus % of the time, if you don’t have good people you’re not gonna succeed.
And I kept on pouring money into it and it was really bad. I lost a ton of money and I was only 21 at the time. I didn’t know any better. I ended up learning by having to repay back all the money I lost. So and I did that through consulting. And I really learned hard at that point, not only is execution important but people. If you don’t have good people you’re gonna have a lot of extra problems that you shouldn’t have had.
Nathan: You know, that’s a big one. How do you goabout finding great talent?
Neil: You have to find people that not only love what they’re doing but have a skill set you don’t have and they’re just like the best at it, right? So it’s like if you want a developer you go and find the best developer you can. If you don’t know how to go find them, go find another developer that you can’t hire but you know is really good that can help you hire, right?
Same with design. Design’s a bit easy because you can look at the design work and see if they’re good.But not only do you have to look to see if people are good and look to see if they’re efficient. Just because you’re an awesome developer and have hired these kinds of people in the past, just becuase you don’t do any work like you can create the best code but if you barely do any work there’s no value in you, right? So you’ve gotta look at efficiency and output as well. And if you don’t know how to hire, go find people who know how to hire and find out their strategies and mimic.