Who the F$@!# is Neil Patel? — and why should you listen to him?
Neil started ACS, a search engine optimization and web marketing company in his teens for just $2000 – most of which was used to build a website and buy basic equipment. Since he did not know anyone – he simply “cold-called” and emailed business(es) to get the ball rolling. In my opinion, Neil is easily one of the most creative and unorthodox online marketing experts I know of — and he’s still in his twenties. He’s also the co-founder of two well known Internet companies: Crazy Egg & KISSMETRICS. It is vital to surround yourself with valuable mentors that will aid you in your entrepreneurial journey – Unfortunately, most people do not have access to any mentors for various reasons. This is part of the reason why I have invited Neil to share his thoughts with you all – imagine him as your very own virtual mentor that will help plant some “success seeds” deep within your cranium.
If you want to get a soothing dose of marketing knowledge (and business wisdom) directly into your bloodstream in a simple, entertaining way, I highly recommend that you follow him over at QuickSprout. (He also has a super hot nanny :))
Below is a summary of our conversation:
DW: When you first started in business and lost over one million dollars — was that your first major failure? if so what is it that kept you moving forward while learning from your mistakes?
NP: It wasn’t. It was my 3rd or 4th failure. What kept me moving forward was that I wanted to be rich and I didn’t know how to get there other than from being an entrepreneur.
DW: Were you always surrounded by people with the entrepreneurial spirit (hiten shah, parents etc.) and do you think that was a major factor for your success? How would you think things would have turned out if these people were absent from your life at those critical moments?
NP: I was – and that was a major factor in my success. I learned a lot from my uncles, mom and anyone else who was around me that was an entrepreneur. If these people were absent from my life at those critical moments, I probably wouldn’t be a somewhat successful entrepreneur. The reason being is that I wouldn’t have anyone who I could learn from.
DW: Why did you choose to become an Entrepreneur? Did you feel socially awkward? What were you trying to prove? Any personal weaknesses that you hated?
NP: I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to make a lot of money without having to spend years in college to become a doctor or a lawyer. I grew up in a middle class lifestyle and I just wanted more.
DW: You gained a lot of followers and online presence when you helped big companies/blogs like TechCrunch, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, Amazon, Mashable – with SEO/Marketing which in turn helped you establish credibility on the web. Before all of this — when you were a complete unknown with a zero track record, how did you get in contact and convince the first major player to listen to you — and what would you recommend to someone who has absolutely nothing but a strong conviction and desire to succeed go about building real relationships with people who are much more successful than them?
NP: I just emailed all of these big players. I didn’t know any of them and most of them didn’t respond, but luckily a few did. And from there you leverage their names to get you more big names. If you want to do the same thing, just hit up whomever you can. Sooner or later, someone will listen. Remember, it’s a numbers game.
DW: There’s a ton of kids who go to college to study computer science, engineering and business so they could eventually start a business. You also studied computer science back in the day — how hard was it for you to leave school behind when “education” was considered to be a important factor by most people?
NP: I technically didn’t leave school. I just switched majors and I ended up graduating. None-the-less I don’t think school is that important and although others put a lot of weight on it, you can always go back to school if things don’t work out. Just make sure you don’t have too much overhead by buying things like fancy cars as it makes it hard to go back to school when you have to have a job to pay for an expensive lifestyle.
DW: What is the single biggest weakness that you battle with yourself on a daily basis that most people would never guess about you?
NP: My biggest weakness is management. I hate managing employees and team members. I battle with this by hiring people who are smarter than me and are good at managing others.
DW: What is one question you wished every interviewer asked you but never do — and how would you answer it?
NP: That’s a tough one… probably something along the lines of “what separates a good entrepreneur from a rich one?” — My answer would be persistence and luck. You cannot control whether you’ll be rich or not – all you can do is continue to try and learn from your mistakes and make smart choices. If you do this hopefully you’ll succeed sooner or later. It’s all about increasing your probabilities.
DW: Here’s a scenario: You are married with a little baby boy (ie: Neil Patel Jr.). Fast forward 25 years. He’s a high school drop out working odd jobs. He’s really having a hard time making something happen with his life. The motivation is there but something is missing. He comes to you for advice. What would your response be?
NP: First I would slap him (seriously). Then I would tell him to get his act together and figure things out on his own. At that point I would make a deal with him, in which if he can graduate from high school, get good grades, and show that he is willing to work hard, I’ll fund his first business.
DW: Fear is a major problem with most wanna-be entrepreneurs. Did you ever come across people who were much smarter than you (Ive League MBA’s, people with tons of money etc.) during your early years and feel intimidated by their qualifications in comparison to yours — and how did you handle the fear of being inferior/having lack of knowledge or skill. Did you ever doubt yourself being an entrepreneur or even being remotely successful in the business-field ? What was the critical turning point that absolutely, positively convinced you that you could go far in this field?
NP: Yes, I did feel intimidated by people with a ton of money and people with Ivy League MBA’s. I handled this by just trying to work harder and move faster so that I would have a chance at out-maneuvering those people. Of course, like most entrepreneurs, I had doubts that things would not work out with my business, but you get over that once you start making money. As money usually changes the game.
Hustle Trumps Intelligence
Neil isn’t a genius – he’s actually not that smart. So why exactly is he successful? Based on my observations, Neil seems to do well when he has clear focus on a few projects vs. distributing his energy on multiple ventures. Once he clearly defines what he wants (have a “profitable venture” etc. vs. having a profitable search engine optimization venture aimed at tech startups) – he uses ingenuity and unorthodox methods to get to his end goal. Bottom line is: he makes it happen one way or the other - either with or without having money. Neil succeeded by using sheer brute force till the wall simply cracked out of exhaustion. He did not put all his chips in school, luck or fate – in fact, his “luck” was actually deliberately engineered. He strongly believes in figuring things out on your own. You only need a few small wins to use as leverage to conquer bigger, more ambitious goals. Most importantly – in order to compensate for his weaknesses, he fostered relationships with key players and offered them his knowledge, services and gratitude with no reservations. (..and for free)
You don’t need to compete with people who are smarter than you (you can’t) – sometimes it’s just easier than you think to simply manufacture your own luck. If you can’t join them – beat them by creating an entirely different game.