Don’t feel pressure to start right away: Try not to feel the pressure to start a business right after school. Go work for a successful one and take notes. When you are young, you have the luxury to be patient. Take advantage of it. I worked for two billionaires and a billion-dollar company before starting mine, and I believe the lessons I learned during that time is why my first company is successful.
I had the pleasure to interview Chris Smith. Chris is the co-founder of Curaytor, a digital marketing, and sales coaching company that helps businesses thrive nationwide. Curaytor takes the guesswork out of digital marketing with its team of millennials and free coaching sessions which help to create content that drives leads. With 95% of customers rating Curaytor a 10 out of 10, Curaytor promises to deliver help, not hype.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
After graduating from Florida State University in 2002 with a degree in sociology, I immediately headed out to Hollywood to pursue a career as an actor. After a few years of mostly non-acting work, mixed with some bit parts on shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Drew Carey Show,” I finally concluded that talent actually matters, and I didn’t have any. At that point, I moved back to my hometown near Orlando and found success at a sales job for a music producer (Lou Pearlman). That led me to doing sales at Quicken Loans and then for realtor.com. During my Realtor.com gig, I produced YouTube instructional videos that caught the eye of Boston tech professionals Jimmy Mackin and Andrew Leafe, who were developing an online tool that also caught my eye. I drew on my sales talents to help Mackin and Leafe with developing new software, and the three of us formed a partnership that became Curaytor — a digital marketing and sales coaching company that helps over 800 businesses thrive nationwide. In less than five years, I used the blueprint from my book, The Conversion Code, to grow Curaytor to over $12 million in annual, recurring revenue. Curaytor was ranked №303 on last year’s Inc. 5000 list and ranked №9 among companies in both Boston and its headquarters in Orlando. I now use the lessons that I’ve learned throughout my career and help others through speaking at conferences and giving advice on my podcast and vlog, Calls with Chris and Curayted.
What do think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company message has always been simple, work innovatively and remain humble. Even our office space reflects this message by creating an environment that is innovative yet familiar. We have created a “living room” and a “kitchen table” where we can work collaboratively amongst our entire office. This means even our CEO and top company executives will work amongst entry level employees, sharing advice and keeping themselves engaged in the day to day workflow. We find that the best “ROI” comes from the moments when we are actively sharing client success stories or creating an amazing campaign for a client. Furthermore, new business comes from seeing an office and company that works cohesively together. Through this, we find that our technology rivals those in Silicon Valley, but we can stay in tune with the small businesses we work with each day.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We recently created an integration within Curaytor that improves email marketing as we know it today. It all started out with realizing that in order to be successful in sales, it’s all about developing human relationships. I believe in killing the excessive weight that comes along with Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) and only have the system be a help, not a hindrance. Salespeople should only pull from CRMs the information they need about the people they need, in the moment that they need it. This idea has helped lead to the development of the Curaytor Brain, CAB (Create, Advertise, Blast), Convert and Marketer components that redefine the idea of an all-in-one system by making it about helping people and not about the hype around pixels created in the system. These cutting-edge features have given salespeople the ability to convert leads into actions, and the ability to make direct connections, real relationships and become the experts they need to be to actively sell products and services. We are also expanding our focus beyond the real estate industry to mortgage, fitness and automotive industries to help more small business owners increase sales and generate more leads.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Think big: Most people who start a business think way too small. They set goals and milestones for themselves that in hindsight, will look small and foolish. So, like one of my mentors Gary Keller says, “Think as big as you can, then double or triple that.”
- Don’t feel pressure to start right away: Try not to feel the pressure to start a business right after school. Go work for a successful one and take notes. When you are young, you have the luxury to be patient. Take advantage of it. I worked for two billionaires and a billion-dollar company before starting mine, and I believe the lessons I learned during that time is why my first company is successful.
- Prove’ em Wrong: Recent college graduates are well aware of the millennial stereotypes and are on a mission to prove them wrong. We all have the same drive when we’re young — don’t let anyone slow you down! Prove you are hardworking, passionate and driven.
- Willingness to Change: Nothing that we do today is what we did when we started. You have to be willing to change and adapt. What I’ve learned from our years building Curaytor into one of the Fastest Growing Companies in America is that while we started the company with the pot of gold in mind, we love the rainbow even more. Enjoy the journey and love the rainbow, not just what’s at the end of it.
- Passion: Passion powers profit. Our company is driven by passionate, focused founders, and the team we’ve assembled shares our enthusiasm and love for what we do. It’s important to hire people who share that same passion and attract customers who feel the same way. It’s all about waking up and doing what you love.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
The day we launched our big idea, so did Facebook. On a Monday back in January 2013, I emailed a couple reporters with a subject line that read, “Yo Zuck, we just nailed Facebook Search” hinting at some search features in the works at Curaytor. The next day, Mark Zuckerberg dropped a massive bomb on me when he introduced Graph Search, its own search mechanism that makes it easier for users to sort through pictures, friends, groups, places and interests. The news was like a kick to the groin. It’s incredibly scary to risk everything, give up the security of the familiar, and pursue the entrepreneurial path. Not to mention, leave a job in real estate earning over six figures a year. My wife, a student at a university in New York City, had already expressed doubt that starting the company was the right thing, and I remember seeing her face when the news broke. She was sitting there doing her homework, and she looked up at me. Her heart was broken. It didn’t matter what exactly Facebook had announced, or how its product worked. Just hearing the words “Facebook” and “search” at a big, splashy press announcement with over a hundred journalists (after spending a year developing my own product) was a shock to the system. It hurt, man. My heart was in my stomach. I read up on Graph Search and realized my product was doing something slightly different than what Facebook was offering. Graph Search didn’t focus on retrieving past conversations. I went online and rallied the support system. Greatness is marked by how we deal with adversity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My brother is our head of marketing and my co-founder’s sister is our head of sales. While working with family is often frowned upon, we have made it work very well and having someone who has ultimate trust is an amazing feeling. The goal as you grow and scale is to hire folks who can represent you best when you are not in the room. Who better to do that than your own flesh and blood!
Have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have sure tried. The more I have made the more I have tried to give back both financially and with my time. We also recently sponsored a local non-profit focused on helping minority kids learn how to code. Instead of just cutting them a check, we applied our team and technology, plus money, to help them get the word out and grow their footprint in the community.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life?
I remember when moving to L.A. and feeling so alone and lost and that I was making the wrong decisions. Then I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho which really hit home and helped me keep in perspective that my journey was just that — a journey. And that any suffering or pain I was feeling was just a blip in time on a much bigger mission.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have lunch with the founders of Basecamp, Jason Fried and DHH. Their common sense, bootstrapped, blue-collar approach to running a fast-growing SaaS business is refreshing and inspiring.
Originally published at medium.com