Joining me today is Sinan Kanatsiz, the CEO of both KCOMM, a PR & Marketing firm as well as the IMA (Internet Marketing Association) – of which IMPAQ and my wife Kamin & I are members.
Sinan Kanatsiz has effectively made his mark as an entrepreneur in the United States. His parents migrated from Turkey in the late 1960’s. In 1998, while studying for a master’s degree at Chapman University, Kanatsiz followed his entrepreneurial spirit and formalized his first company, KCOMM, a Public Relations and Internet marketing agency. The company quickly evolved into a full-service marketing, government affairs and event marketing firm known for its Internet expertise and results-oriented approach.
Thank you for connecting with us for this conversation! Please share with us the story of how you decided to pursue your businesses.
My father thought I was very good at selling lasagna because I was a waiter at the Olive Garden. That became a career in public relations. It was just as simple as that! My dad thought since I had really good communication skills, I can persuade, and am very good at marketing so therefore I should go into P.R.
That really was a home run, because it was a perfect match for the degree that I wanted and it was a natural ability of mine, so the two coming together were great. One of the inter-term courses I took was on how to build a web page, back when the internet was just evolving. I mixed my communication skills, a degree in PR and learning how to code basic html into a business and became the chairman and founder of the Internet Marketing Association. The IMA is a worldwide professional association with a very extensive and international membership. (The only prerequisite is having a college degree.)
This all evolved around things that I was already good at naturally – and the timing of the internet as a whole new industry and a whole new marketplace was great.
What top 3 lessons could others learn from your story?
One is focus on a niche. I found programming and combined that with traditional PR marketing and created my own industry called internet marketing and I created an association called Internet Marketing Association.
You may be really good at the violin. You may have a degree in English. Those are two passions of yours that if you can find a way to interconnect and create a business out of it then that’s what makes it work.
I think another thing is just really excellent communication skills. My dad recommended I go to Toastmasters – and I thought the Toastmasters was a drinking club! However it is actually an amazing place to learn professional communication skills – which are really key.
The third is just to be surrounded by good advice & professionals who can help you as your business transforms with issues such as scaling, reliability, finance, accounting, those sort of things. Having really good professionals and platforms that can help that growth is really important.
What were the 3 most interesting or unexpected business transformation moments that you experienced in the past 3 years?
The first is international travel, being immersed in other cultures. As part of the Internet Marketing Association we have been in front of cultures from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and to be interconnected with like-minded business leaders across cultures I think is really important. It gives a lot of understanding and appreciation.
The second is internet 2.0. I think the advent of social media and the cross between that and internet 3.0 which is really around the analysis of big data and artificial intelligence as well as key learning applications. That has been invaluable in work that I’m involved in and we’ve become a leader in this for our respective clients.
This third is one of the companies I founded called the International Executive Council. This is a leadership group mainly formed of business leaders where we get together around great leadership events with renowned CEOs. Then, we also break out in small groups and are there for each other to talk about our business challenges as well as opportunities. We’re able to speak together in a confidential setting where we can really enlist great advice. So in the past three years those have really been three key elements of my transformation.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Definitely my father. He was a schoolteacher and the son of an entrepreneur in the Middle East who created a very successful transportation company. I would call it the Uber of that generation. He was very influential. He’s been gone for several years now, but I still today think about those critical lessons I learned from him. I’m raising my children with my wife and in the advice I’m giving my children I always reflect back to my father’s voice. It’s amazing how much of his wisdom I’ve applied to the global companies that I run now.
What are the 3 things that most excite you about 2019 or this moment in time, and why?
Well, I think that there’s so much potential for bringing people together. We live in a super polarized world. It’s not just because of the politics in Washington, it is also the internet that has caused a lot of damage in further polarizing groups, and that’s something that just doesn’t speak to my DNA.
So for me, personally, I love to bring the world together. Different walks of life, different leaders, different ethnicities, really collaborating on the central ideas of helping others and learning from each other. That is the quintessential thing that drives me every day.
I see other great things. Our economy is super strong in North America. I’ve never seen a stock market like this. I represent a large amount of clients where we do communication services for them and virtually every sector is strong. Insurance, finance, agriculture. I mean, there’s all these new markets that are opened around cryptocurrency & blockchain. I am very encouraged for the next generation. I think the internet and social media has really made a lot of people honest. I think people’s actions and the impact it had on them in all aspects of life has really kind of been neutralized because of the internet.
As the father of two young children, I’m encouraged to see how the next generation is adapting around that and really following a straighter line of lives of integrity and development. I speak often at universities – I’m really encouraged about the next generation.
How do you think leaders will need to change in in the next decade (2020 and beyond)?
Well, I think tolerance is a big thing. What we’ve seen in society in the past five years is a big eye opener to tolerance. I really believe that leaders need to think more than just about themselves and their organization to remain relevant.
Another big thing is machine learning and AI. Every business deals with data whether it’s small data or big data and to be able to predict patterns around business growth – I think that is really important.
Because of the internet we’ve become a bit of a one world business. So, if business owners are not acclimated or aware of other cultures and diversity and ethnicities and languages, if these business leaders are not traveling and seeing the world then I think they’re going to miss out. Those are the things that I would look at as the three primary things; tolerance, technology around AI and then travel and cultural awareness.
Kamin and I are both really excited about the Internet Marketing Association, which we are members of. Can you share a little more with our readers about that?
The Internet Marketing Association now has over a million points of data in its database!
We have a massive database that we’ve been collecting over the years. We have a podcast series that we are running. Sean Conrad who heads our operations is really helping with all that.
We also have an IMA certification where we are instructing and teaching best practices around all things digital marketing whether it be social, search engine optimization, marketing, web development. All these different things taught by an authority like the IMA.
The IEC, which is a spin-off of IMA, will be interviewing a lot of our members – including you! – for our podcast series and we have our own conference series called Impact that we’ve been doing for over 10 years around the world.
Our last one was at Amazon headquarters two weeks ago. It was incredible.
We’re planning Las Vegas again, Singapore, and a whole number of other cities. We’ve technically been doing it for the last 20 years. We just called it Impact for the last 10. So that’s a little bit about our podcast and our digital certification and some of our leadership pieces that we’re doing around the organization.
Here’s the link: https://imanetwork.org/
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