“This is an important thing to understand: always being humble enough to realize that you don’t know everything. There’s someone out there who can teach you something.”
– Mike Glezos, March 27th 2014
Last month I was fortunate enough to speak with Mike Glezos, vice president of digital marketing at corpNet and founder of Biz Name Wiz, a business naming agency. During our conversation we touch on how he got his start in digital during the dot-com boom, his best advice for 20-somethings and the biggest mistake he has made in his career, among other topics.
Below is a record of our conversation. I hope you enjoy.
Tell me more about yourself and how you started in digital 12 years ago? You have seen the whole industry from it’s very beginning until now.
I have always had an incredible passion for web applications, e-commerce and Internet marketing. I started my career in 2001, when I started a web agency in the middle of the dot-com boom. For 12 years I was building high-end crazy CRM, e-commerce, business process and automation projects for companies like Chase, HSBC, Air New Zealand and celebrities, all the way down to mom and pop shops. I realized after a while it was time to move on. I had built a very successful web agency. I got a little tired of building applications for other people and wanted to build a few companies. That was 12 years of my life summed up in 30 seconds.
You studied photography and I feel like design is a big part of what you do. How does your love and education around photography inform your eye for design?
I went to the 2nd most famous photography school in the world, at Brooks Institute of Photography. I got more into the digital end of photography and design. I ended up getting a degree in digital photography. I taught HTML to people. What they taught me was how elements need to look beautiful. It doesn’t matter how awesome your application performs, if your site or your app looks like crap, it’s nearly worthless. I have always employed the principle that the look and feel needs to be clean and design-worthy.
What’s your best piece of advice for finding your passion and being successful in what you do?
Learning every single day. You can’t learn everything in college. I follow about 40 different blogs and sites via RSS readers like Feedly. Staying on top of the technology is important. You always want to stay on top of your game and learn as much as you can from as many people as you can.
Another thing is mentorship. I have mentors right now who I speak to on a weekly basis. This is an important thing to understand: always being humble enough to realize that you don’t know everything. There’s someone out there who can teach you something. I have reversed that education too. I have people that call me on a monthly basis. I always like to give back as much as I have received.
What’s the biggest mistake you have made in your career and how did you learn from it?
I have built a lot of failed products and a lot of failed companies. I have learned to fail quickly. The last failure I experienced I lost the least amount of money ever. The biggest failure I got into was some trouble with the IRS earlier on. I didn’t know how to manage my money and pay taxes. I wasn’t taking payments seriously and I got into some trouble, we had to deal with some lawyers. It took me two years to get out of that situation. We basically had to work our way out of it. Never underestimate or take the IRS for granted when it comes to what you owe or what needs to be paid. Even if you’re making a couple of bucks here, and you’re getting a 1099 at the end of the year, you better be sure you are paying whatever you owe.
Tell me more about what you do at the Hive?
We’re definitely growing and we’ve had a whole lot of interest from investors. I have kept them at bay a little bit because I like having a little bit of control at this point in time. I know that this is a great idea and people are receiving it well. We are not heavily marketing it right now and it’s still getting out there. We’re doing a significant amount of orders a month.
It’s a business naming agency. All of our writers on our staff have their dream job. They basically get to sit their desk and come up with ideas and names for products and businesses. It’s literally the fun part of the Mad Men TV shows. I had a client from Canada launch a product about a year ago, similar to Victoria Secret. We got to name the product and now she’s blowing up. Sales have been incredible. We named her business and came up with the name behind the technology.
What’s the relationship like once you’re done naming the product or the technology behind the product? I’m curious how this relationship moves forward once you name the product or service.
If you look at the timeline of an entrepreneur, the idea of their business from conception, I call it the sperm stage of the entrepreneur. Most companies like GoDaddy or LegalZoom, incorporation services, corpnet: we have the ability to acquire an entrepreneur. There are services that we can then tap into to help them because we’re a creative business agency. We can help that business with creative services.
Right now we are focused on getting the naming right first. In the next six months to a year we’ll be rolling out more services.
What’s next for Mike Glezos?
I sold a million dollar company. I would love to sell a $50 million company. It’s a business that I would be super proud of. Stay and remain an entrepreneur for life. Be involved from the nesting stage to the elderly stage of a business – this is incredibly valuable advice. What you end up having here is you get caught up in start-up mode and you’re getting hammered with what you’re doing. You’re focused on building that service or that product. It’s 10% your idea and 90% sales and marketing. Before I start doing business, I always come up with a sales and marketing plan first. This comes back to failing quickly. If you can get a sale in a week then I’m on to something. Setting expectations from Day 1, that’s the best piece of advice.