Young Gun Entrepreneur: Dan Schawbel
Sep 16, 2011
Dan Schawbel (personalbranding.com), recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, and the leading authority on personalbranding. He is the #1 international bestselling author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan, October 2010), the founder of the Personal Branding Blog, and publisher of Personal Branding Magazine. Dan is the youngest BusinessWeek columnist, and was recently named to the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list. He has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, BrandWeek Magazine, and Mashable, and has appeared in ELLE Magazine, Details Magazine, USA Today, and on CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and NPR. Dan has spoken to IBM, CitiGroup, Time Warner, Harvard Business School, and MIT, and has shared the stage with thought leaders such as Seth Godin.
This is part of a profile interview series of young entrepreneurs & their experiences launching & growing new startups.
About the Entrepreneur / Experience:
- What first attracted you to becoming an entrepreneur?
When I was working for a Fortune 200 company, I had very little control over the end result of projects. I didn’t like the idea of a 9-5 work day where I had to drive 45 minutes to work, despite the fact that my job revolved around being on the internet. I was seduced into being an entrepreneur when I discovered my passion, started blogging, and realized the potential.
- What was the first step you took?
The first step I took in establishing my business was to spread my ideas through a blog and social network profiles. The ideas attracted an audience that I learned from, and the audience became my customers and sponsors.
- When did you hire your first employee? How did you find them?
My first hire was a friend that became interested in the business after I let him moderate a panel at one of my events. I knew his strengths after a decade of friends and tested him out in front of a group of people. He did well and eventually became the events director.
- What was the hardest thing that you have had to do as an entrepreneur?
The hardest thing is to balance all our initiatives. To take on new projects, while still serving current customers, and also maintaining relevance online. You need to focus on where the company is going, not just where you are.
- What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I would advise you to find the right people, bootstrap as much as possible, and to build your company around something that you love. If you’re starting a company only for the profit, it will never become that profitable and you won’t enjoy the process.
- What type of support is available in your community?
People in my community support each other and then bring me questions that I answer through various medium, including Facebook.
- Is there a true entrepreneurial environment in your community?
Many people in my community want to start their own businesses or are intrapreneurial in spirit. They are looking for the resources and tools to help them grow their personal brands, as well as their corporations.
- What was the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was the start marketing my book over a year before it was published. If I didn’t take that advice, I wouldn’t have been as successful. You need to build a strong community, and following, before you sell to them so that they trust you enough to buy from you.
- What was the biggest mistake you made starting out?
The best mistake I made when I was first starting out was to over-promote myself in blog comments and on social networks. Based on the response I received, I changed the way I positioned myself online as a giver, rather than a taker.
About the Company / Product:
- Why did you decide to start that particular company?
I already had a strong brand and wanted to build something bigger than myself so I started a company. I had always been marketing to the millennial generation and my focus area was branding so “Millennial Branding” made perfect sense.
- How big do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?
I could see us doubling in revenue and in workforce size in the next 1-2 years. It’s hard to predict five years out. I am just enjoying the ride right now and constantly reinventing the way I do business to better serve customers.
- How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
We are a full-service personal branding agency. We are the on-stop-shop for personal branding online, offering more resources than anyone in the world. We also have the credibility by working with companies such as Time Warner, IBM, Symantec, EMC, etc.
- What do you do better than anyone else in the industry?
We are the experts at personal branding.
- What is the biggest challenge your company is facing right now?
The biggest challenge is managing all of our clients, while bringing in new clients, and remaining relevant to the industry. Technology, and information, is moving so fast that it’s becoming harder to keep up!
- What is the biggest success you have had, and how did it come about?
The biggest success I’ve had to date was becoming a #1 bestselling author in Japan. Since I’m an American author whose never traveled to Japan or spoken Japanese, it was an extremely difficult task.
- Was there one thing that you did when starting the company that turned out to be a waste of time?
I think everything I’ve done has helped in some way. I might have spent too much time on blogging but it’s hard to tell. I don’t look at things as being a waste of time. I do projects that I love!