Start small. Instead of tackling the biggest challenges first, start with the small challenges. This will help develop confidence, which will carry over into other areas of your life. Remember: Developing grit in your personal life transfers to your professional roles, and vice versa.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kim Perell, an award-winning entrepreneur, bestselling author, and angel investor with nearly two decades of experience serving as a CEO the marketing technology sector. Kim is the CEO of leading marketing technology company Amobee, overseeing over 800 employees across 25 global offices. Kim’s first book, The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success is a national bestseller, designed to help others achieve success in business and life by mastering execution.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path
Right out of college, I landed my dream job working for a booming internet startup. The company raised over $120 million in funding, then the market took a sharp turn, the company went bankrupt and I was laid off. I suddenly found myself laid off, broke and devastated. It was the hardest time of my life. It was like someone pushed delete on my career.
From there, I decided to make a bet on myself. I called my 80-year-old grandmother for a $10,000 loan and I started my own company from my kitchen table. I was certainly scared and had doubts. What I learned is that you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. My belief in myself had to be greater than anyone’s doubt. The company grew to over $100 million in annual revenue and I sold it. Broke at 23, I was a multimillionaire by the time I was 30. My last company sold for $235 million in 2014.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first started my company, I was working from my kitchen table in Hawaii. It was a lot of hard work and I often stayed up all night working, taking calls from the east coast at 4 and 5 in the morning. But my passion for the work that I was doing and my desire to control my own future always kept me going.
It took a lot of hard work before the business actually started to grow and I was able to hire on my first few employees. There were countless obstacles and roadblocks along the way; like the time when my database permanently crashed, or the times I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make payroll. Throughout it all, I was laser-focused on building a great company through sustainable revenue and results. My grit and determination to succeed motivated me to keep going — and in the end, it paid off.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My vision of achieving the life that I wanted to live — which when I started was freedom and the ability to have control because my previous company went bankrupt. Now my vision is to help other people achieve success and that is my greatest source of motivation. Having a vision of what I wanted to achieve is what helped me through the hard times when others would have given up.
I learned a long time ago that whatever your vision is, it’s essential that you’re able to see it and feel it. It has to be meaningful enough that you can truly connect to it. When you think about your vision, are you passionate about achieving it? Passion comes from the Latin word for pain. What is something you’re so passionate about that you would gladly suffer for? Ensure you write down your vision and look at it every day.
Without a clear vision, I wouldn’t know what goals to set or what actions to take- or what am I working towards. By taking charge of my vision, being exactingly clear with myself about what I want, and following my North Star, I set myself up for a life of greater success and fulfillment.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Grit has been the key ingredient in my success from the very beginning. It kept me going long after others would have given up. When the first company I worked for the went bankrupt, I embraced uncertainty and started my own company from my kitchen table, despite being just out of college and no real idea on how to do it, just knowing the internet had opportunities. After getting a $10,000 loan from my Grandma, I began to work tirelessly to get the company off the ground. The company grew slowly with grueling work, but the challenges kept coming, as they do for all companies.
A few years into running my business, our server failed and all the data was unrecoverable. A small part of me wanted to hide under my covers and forget it ever happened. But instead of taking the easy way out, I dusted myself off and did the right thing. First thing Monday morning, I called each and every one of our clients to explain what had happened. I full accepted responsibility. And do you know what happened? Not a single advertising client deserted us that day or in the weeks that it took to get up and running again.
I still have to exercise grit and resilience every single day in order to be successful in my endeavors. The good news is that it gets easier — it’s a muscle you build. The only thing certain in life is uncertainty, and everyone will face roadblocks and setbacks where life doesn’t go exactly as planned and that is certainly the case in times of transformation in business like we see today. Giving up is the easy choice. The path that I will always choose is grit and resilience.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
Today, I’m honored to be the CEO of a leading advertising technology company and working with an incredible team of highly talented people. Companies are ultimately about people — great people make great companies. It’s a historic time in tech and advertising. There are amazing opportunities across digital advertising and the transformation happening. We are backed by one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, who has the resources and vision needed to create the next generation of advertising possible.
When I am not at work, one of my greatest passions is angel investing. I love people and I love ideas and supporting the success of others; I look at it as a hobby. It’s very inspiring to work with such talented and brilliant entrepreneurs. And when I am looking at which companies I want to invest in, grit and resilience is among the top qualities that I look for, whether it’s an investment or hiring an employee. You want to understand what happens when you get knocked down or things don’t go your way, will you get back up, will you do what it takes to make something happen?
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- Learn to manage rejection. I make it a habit of putting myself in the face of rejection all the time. That’s how you grow, adjust, and develop the grit to face day-to-day challenges.
- Feel the fear and do it anyways. In order to be successful, you need to learn to take calculated risks. Of course it will be scary, but learn to feel the fear and do it anyways.
- Set realistic expectations. My favorite rule to adjust my expectations is the 2×2 rule: Most undertakings will take you twice as long and cost twice as much, and you are not the exception. Setting more realistic expectations from the beginning helps avoid unnecessary let-downs.
- Start small. Instead of tackling the biggest challenges first, start with the small challenges. This will help develop confidence, which will carry over into other areas of your life. Remember: Developing grit in your personal life transfers to your professional roles, and vice versa.
- Always have a safety net. Whether that means having a Plan B or just a little extra money (6 months is what I recommend) saved up, a backup plan is an important aspect of developing grit. It allows you to push yourself harder, knowing that no matter what it will be okay.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to success: It’s the cornerstone to happiness. I’m very grateful to have had many mentors and supportive relationships throughout my life. My greatest mentors have been my parents.
I was fortunate to be exposed to the challenges of running businesses through them at an early age. My dad was a roofer who became real estate entrepreneur, and my mom’s work revolved around company values — to help companies put people before profit. She exposed me to much of the people part of what make great teams and great culture.
My dinner table conversations growing up were not about sports or school. It was more, “Here’s the business problem we’re trying to solve,” and then we’d have a family discussion about it. There’s a lot of hard-work DNA in our family — every thing had to be earned in my family.
As a kid, I loved horses and wanted to do riding lessons, which were expensive and my parents encouraged me to figure out a way to pay for the lessons. I went to the barn and asked them if I could work at the stable to get a riding lesson, and they gave me seven hours of cleaning up the stables for a one-hour ride. I thought that was an incredible deal. Looking back I think they got a better deal on that one, but I would have done anything to ride that horse. It’s passion that’ll keep you going — that gives you the grit to work the 7 hours for the one hour of riding.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Nobody achieves anything alone. When I started my first company 15 years ago, I was broke,
unemployed, and trying to convince anyone to lend me money was an uphill battle. Thankfully my 80-year-old grandmother made a bet on me.
My goal is to pay it forward by investing in entrepreneurs who need someone to believe in them. That’s why I launched The Execution Factor Fund, investing one million dollars plus 100% of the proceeds from my book, The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success, going to support aspiring entrepreneurs with early stage investment.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The launch of my first book, The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success, has been my passion project and I feel like I’ve been working on it my whole life as it’s about my journey. Seeing it come to fruition has been a dream come true — and it all started with a vision! My goal when writing the book was to share what I have learned from my journey to help others achieve success in business and life. Whether that be aspiring entrepreneurs, recent graduates, moms looking to start a side hustle, or someone looking to reach the next level of their career — execution can help anyone achieve success. Ultimately, we are all CEOs of our own lives and the book is designed for you to achieve success as the CEO of your own life. My passion is people, and helping others is what I want to focus the next chapter of my life on.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Recognize that everybody is different and nurture the differences of your team as you need to bring people together who see what you don’t see and complement one another’s strengths. Nurturing and leveraging those differences among your employees produces happier, more successful teams. Every person brings individual strengths, talents, knowledge and experience to the table. Discover each of your employees’ strength, talents, and passions, then foster them. The more you understand your team, the more effective and productive your team will become.
I always look to find teams to complement my strengths. It’s important to recognize that good professional traits are interdependent — you need all of them to successfully execute your company’s vision. So instead of seeing employees as individual players, I view them as a team that works together.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Execution. The ability to DO — get things done, the right things — to get results. To learn to adapt and change, and keep moving forward despite the challenges, hardships and obstacles that lay ahead. Execution is what separates the dreamers from the doers, and it’s the trait that successful people have in common. I attribute my own success to my ability to execute, and I want to share this skill with others to help them achieve success in business and life. Execution is the difference between success and failure. I believe in it so much and that it can be learned, I wrote a book on it. My first book, The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success, designed to help others succeed by mastering execution, was released by McGraw Hill in 2018 and became a national bestseller. It’s been a huge honor to be able to share my story with so many.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Execution is the difference between success and failure.” Ideas are dime a dozen. Success is all about Execution. Execution is the ability to do and get results — to keep moving forward to achieve your vision and goals in business and life despite the obstacles that lay ahead. Working with entrepreneurs and after seeing hundreds of investment pitches, the biggest gap I see between the Dreamers and Doers is the ability to execute.
The misconception about success is it’s just about IQ or hard work, but it’s not. We all know really smart people and really hard-working people who ultimately are not successful. You can also be really busy, but that doesn’t mean you are busy doing the right things. Entrepreneurs often focus heavily on the exact idea — but ideas are a dime a dozen — and most times, your business changes significantly from your original idea. Ideas are just the starting point. Two entrepreneurs can have the same idea, but the one who executes better always wins.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.