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The Entrepreneur Who Is Disrupting Digital Marketing with Artificial Intelligence (Episode 1)

At the age of 25, Mellissah Smith made her first million dollars.

But by the age of 30, she quickly came to realize that when she wasn’t working in the business the revenue stopped. And she learned that one of the secrets to a successful business is being able to scale, delegate and work on the business, rather than in it.

That’s when she started her business “Marketing Eye” that is acknowledged as being in the top 10 marketing consulting firms in the USA. Marketing Eye is an international marketing consulting firm designed so that clients buy the brand and not the person.

It was built to be an outsourced marketing department. If you can remember 20 years ago, an outsourced marketing department wasn’t a big thing. It wasn’t what everyone was doing. Companies had an ad agency, and a PR agency. But they didn’t have this concept of an outsourced marketing department.

So she designed and set up a formula and process around that concept. She also started a magazine alongside that so that her clients could have a voice in the media. She didn’t know it at the time but she was also a content marketer before the term was coined.

Three years ago she decided that she wanted to disrupt the way in which companies develop marketing strategies by automating the process through AI and machine learning. That was the start of Robotic Marketer in which she is also the founder and managing director.

What you will learn

  • How to scale your business 
  • The top three skills and qualities you need to succeed as an entrepreneur
  • Why you need soft skills in business and not just hard skills 
  • Three books that have inspired Mellissah to start and grow multiple businesses
  • The importance of a mentor and business coach
  • The two key elements to growing a business fast
  • The number one reason why you should be starting a podcast.

Transcript

Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone, welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. And I'm Jeff from jeffbullas.com. In March, 2009, I started a passion project website with a $10 investment. I started creating content, built a community, and conversations about social media and about business in a digital world. It was about growth, impact, and inner secrets. A year later, the creation escaped the lab, and I started traveling the world speaking about how to use social networks to grow your business and change your life. Now we have millions of visitors a year to our site and a tribe of over one million followers and subscribers, and we make data ripples. This podcast is an evolution of that passion project, and we'll be interviewing successful entrepreneurs and founders of startups that are changing the world. Each week, we deliver the top insights into their secrets, stories, and tips on how they started and grew their businesses.

Jeff Bullas: Welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show, and today I've got a guest, Mellissah Smith, and I've really been looking forward to interviewing her. I met Mellissah about 18 months ago in Las Vegas. We weren't getting married. There was no chapel in Las Vegas, but she happened to be a fellow Aussie who I've never met before. I met a lot of the Americans, but I haven't met the Aussie in the room, and that was Mel. So it was a pleasure to meet her. Let me introduce her before we get to sit down and have a bit of a chat about this awesome serial entrepreneur.

Jeff Bullas: A little bit about Mel, Mel is a serial entrepreneur with more than 25 years experience in marketing. Now that's a generation. As the founder of international marketing consulting firm, Marketing Eye, a company that is acknowledged as being in the top 10 marketing consulting firms in the U.S., Lissah has disrupted the way in which companies develop marketing strategies by automating the process through AI and machine learning. She started a company just recently called Robotic Marketer, in which she is also the founder and managing director. Over the last 25 years, Mel has also become an influence from marketing and entrepreneurship, regularly making the top 100 list for everything from Marketers to Follow to Top Entrepreneurs. Mellissah is also the editor of Marketing Eye Magazine, a media commentator, a podcaster, and a journalist.

Jeff Bullas: Welcome to the show, Mel. It's so great to have you on here. I've been wanting to arrange this for quite a while. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you originally to become an entrepreneur? To get into business?

Mellissah Smith: I absolutely can. I have a really interesting story because I had no dreams of owning my own business. I am not a naturally born entrepreneur. I'm not one of those stories where I was a kid selling newspapers on weekends or anything like that. When I was 25 years of age, an opportunity came past my desk to start a business. I thought long and hard about it because it wasn't something that was in my dreams. But the opportunity was too good to refuse, and I could see how I could make a million dollars in 12 months, which for me at 25 years of age... And if you kind of go back a few decades and realize the value of that money at that point in time, it really was an opportunity too good too refuse. So if opportunity knocks, you've really got to take it.

Mellissah Smith: My second business was when I was 30 years of age, and what was really interesting about that is rather than just start a business because of what's in front of me, I looked at the next 10 years. What would that actually look like for me? What was I trying to achieve? My first business required me to be part of the parcel. Nobody did business with the company unless I was involved in the transaction. As we know, we can't scale a business doing that. I really wanted to scale a business. I wanted to have a business that didn't rely on me. That if I went on holidays, no one would actually care.

Mellissah Smith: I started Marketing Eye, which is an international marketing consulting firm, and I built it so that clients bought the brand and not the person. I built it out in a way that was not just an outsourced marketing department... And if you can remember 20 years ago, an outsourced marketing department wasn't a big thing. It wasn't what everyone was doing. Yes, we had an ad agency, and yes, we had a PR agency. But we didn't have this concept of an outsourced marketing department. I built up the outsourced marketing department, set up a formula around that. I also started a magazine alongside that so that my clients could have a voice in the media. You know how hard it is sometimes to get media attention. I thought, well, let's change that up. Let's create our own voice.

Jeff Bullas: So you were basically becoming a content market before the term was even invented.

Mellissah Smith: Absolutely, yes. Very much so. Then I started licensing the model and I did a whole heap of other things. That really was about the next 10 years in my life at that point in time. To be honest, I thought I'd start a family and get married and do all these wonderful things and have a white picket fence. Although that's not really for me, and I soon learnt that, that was what that business was set up to do. In my 40s, things changed. I realized... I'm sure you've been in this spot before, where you've been in the industry for so long. I started writing scripts on a typewriter.

Jeff Bullas: Right.

Mellissah Smith: Not a computer, a typewriter.

Jeff Bullas: Okay.

Mellissah Smith: We were doing ads using bromides. So very, very different to where we are today. So I thought, well, what am I leaving this industry with? What have I done to significantly change the industry? And in truth at that point in time, nothing. I was doing too much of what other people were at that point in time doing. I had a good hard look at my knitting, which is a marketing department. How can I make a marketing department run more efficiently and effectively? I knew a lot about technology, I'd been in that industry for 20 years at that point. I literally looked at how could we use AI, software robotics, machine learning, big data to actually streamline the processes of marketing?

Jeff Bullas: So what you're doing basically was you worked had identified the trends you think were going to impact your industry.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, absolutely. That weren't necessarily used in the way that we're using them today. I realized that what marketers needed was an ability to know more and understand more and have it at their fingertips. We're really strong in marketing strategy. As you mentioned in my bio, we're in the top 10 companies in marketing strategy consulting in the U.S., so I started with that. How do we make our marketing strategy better?

Mellissah Smith: I built this company called Robotic Marketer. Literally my legacy to the industry. It's the thing that I'm most proud of, and it really has disrupted the way that we do marketing strategies. We can now do them without a human involved, and that is a quantum leap from a marketing perspective. But it also is smarter than I could ever do. Now I've got 28 years experience in marketing, yet I can't write a marketing strategy as good as my software.

Jeff Bullas: How long ago did you start that? When was the first time you said, okay, we're going to write this. We're going to get some coders in, and we're going to get really clever and use AI machine learning to do it. When was the concept born in terms of timing?

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, it was three years ago.

Jeff Bullas: Wow, okay.

Mellissah Smith: Just over three years ago. I actually walked through Queensland University of Technology's robotics department as part of some philanthropy work that I was doing. I was looking at robots that were built for farms. Totally different. But I walked out of this meeting so inspired, and I thought, well, how are robots used in marketing? And then obviously the picture goes to your head that there's robots sitting at desks and coding away or writing away.

Mellissah Smith: But if you give it a lot more thought, and you think about, well, what have you built? What sort of machine learning have you established over time, and how could that be utilized for the future so that the technology can learn from something? I was able to do that. So three years ago was the big moment, and it's taken three years to really built this powerful technology suite.

Jeff Bullas: Right. So this is rather interesting, as with machine learning, you actually mentioned something that's very, very important, in that you need the data for the machine to learn.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah. And you know, what's really interesting is we've been writing marketing strategies in exactly the same format for 16 years. Imagine, we haven't changed the format. And the other thing we have done, and we only did it so that we didn't make errors internally, is we recorded every single workshop we've ever done. So we have machine learning, which those other companies won't have that. And that really allowed us to build something that was unique.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Let's go back to when you originally started the business. The challenge for most of us is what gave the inspiration to really... What drove you from day one to actually get into business and start this journey?

Mellissah Smith: When I was 25, what drove me was just an opportunity.

Jeff Bullas: You saw the numbers, so you said, I could make a million dollars from this. I couldn't do that just having a job. Were you employed at the time?

Mellissah Smith: I was employed at the time, and I had a great job, but I realized that it was an opportunity and that I should take it, and I had nothing to lose. I think at 25, you're too young to own a marketing agency because you don't have the breadth of knowledge. You don't have the experience. You haven't got the failures and the successes under your belt that you can actually learn from. In hindsight, really dumb idea, but for me, that journey was made easier because I had certain skills that companies wanted.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. So you start this journey. What were some of the biggest challenges that confronted you along the way?

Mellissah Smith: A lot of challenges confront us when we're starting a business. Money wasn't one of them, which is interesting because I was able to make money from day one. That's a really good, fortunate position to be in. But people hiring the right people. Somebody who sits down and you interview them and you take them on face value, when you put them actually in a job, it might be totally different. And marketing is subjective.

Mellissah Smith: People might have done a marketing degree for instance, and they may sit down and could write a marketing strategy and have never written a marketing strategy, or have no idea how to write a marketing strategy because nobody taught them at university. Or maybe they learnt once, but they've forgotten. Likewise with other disciplines within marketing. I think that was really one of the biggest challenges I found for the entire duration of being in business, that you really don't know how good someone is until they actually start working for you.

Mellissah Smith: Another really big challenge is life. And I'm sure you can appreciate this, Jeff. We go through different stages in life. In our 20s, everything's exciting, shiny. When an opportunity comes past our desk, we're over the moon. By the time you get a decade down the road, those same opportunities, you see them differently, and certainly two decades down the road, you see it very differently. Whether people are getting married or wanting a different life or thinking, well, what else is out there? I think we have all these challenges in life that impacts the way we do business or the decisions we make in business. That's a really hard thing to navigate. They say you can't have it all at once, and I believe that's actually true. It's very hard to have it all. That's a constant challenge for any businessperson, and I don't think that's gender specific.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, it is a real challenge. I did my teaching degree, and when I went to start teaching, I realized I knew nothing. What you've done is pretty indicative of where most entrepreneurs come from, is they learn by doing.

Mellissah Smith: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: We don't know what we don't know. University quite often is just a ticket. Yes, it helps us to understand ways of thinking in a discipline, but certainly observing you and the conversation we've had in the past is that you've just done it. Quite often along the way, we need help and guidance. Little bit like Yoda was to Luke Skywalker, really, so. The inspiration is one thing, okay, so an opportunity [inaudible 00:13:27].

Jeff Bullas: Who were your mentors along the way? And also we'll get into some other things that, resources that helped you as well. You're big on mentors, I know that. Tell me a little bit more about mentors and what they've meant to you over the years.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, definitely. Mentors can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, and you've had them for different reasons. People can also guide you for a short time, and that's really helpful to that journey that you're on. But I've been the most fortunate person on the planet. My mentors are phenomenal human beings at every single level. One of my mentors, and I suppose he's my main mentor, is a gentleman by the name of Jack Cowin. For people in Australia, you know who he is. He owns Hungry Jack's and is a majority shareholder of Domino's and hundreds of other businesses. He's this phenomenal businessman, and I have the fortunate position where he's been my mentor now for nearly 20 years.

Jeff Bullas: Wow.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah. So a really long time. I always say to people, I knew him when he was only worth $150 million, and now he's worth lots of billions of dollars. So I've also seen him on a journey, which is kind of funny in itself. But he is phenomenal because he tells me the hard truths, and he pulls me back constantly from doing things that could potentially send me in the wrong direction. One of his great sayings is, "The new girl is always prettier than the girl you took to the dance." And ain't that true?

Jeff Bullas: Yes.

Mellissah Smith: And so in business, sometimes we're going along a business, we're building our company, getting to the next stage, and then we have this bright idea. Let's go off and do this. And it takes us away from that business that's our bread and butter that has probably more opportunity in it than this new shiny toy, and we're able to make more money out of it longterm, and there's a lot more benefit in it. I think he's a man that really lives by that because if you look at Hungry Jack's, he's been with Hungry Jacks. He could have sold it off, he could have done a lot of other things, but he stayed with it, and look where he is today.

Mellissah Smith: But for us as entrepreneurs, we're constantly looking at that new shiny toy because we're full of ideas and we're excited about new things that we can do. We're marketers, you and I are marketers. So there's a new thing. TikTok's around. Do we just jump onto TikTok? Yes, we need to know what it is. Yes, we need to know how to use it in marketing, but is it right for you and I to build our influencer brand, per se, on TikTok? Probably not.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, see the demographic's a little different, so that's usually-

Mellissah Smith: They'd be very bored with us, I think.

Jeff Bullas: It's like 10 year olds to maybe 25 year olds. I actually have an account, by the way.

Mellissah Smith: I do too. Never used it.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I haven't done my first video yet. But you can't ignore a trend, and also any trend that looks like... [inaudible 00:16:38] I think it's only been around three years, and I think it's approaching a billion, it might even be over a billion users. It also uses a lot of AI and machine learning as it captures data from its users, which is one of the fundamental differences. It positions itself a vein in that social media marketing space.

Jeff Bullas: So Jack's been a fabulous mentor to you, and not many people have that privilege, and you must feel really honored to have met him. How did you get to meet Jack originally? How did that happen?

Mellissah Smith: I was fortunate to be part of an association called The Young Entrepreneur's Association, which is now the EO Network, when I was in my early 20s. I met Jack through that. He was in WPO, which is the people that mature past young presidents into the more mature group, or the more experienced group. I just met him at a networking event. I was very lucky because at the time, there were very few women in the association, and I think there was three in Australia, or three in Sydney at that point in time. I was in charge of the mentorship program, so of course I picked the best.

Mellissah Smith: Another mentor that I got out of that program was a guy by the name of Peter Ivany. Everyone's heard of the brand Hoyts, right? He is the guy that really built Hoyts into being all through the U.S., all through Australia, and really expanding it at a phenomenal rate. He sold that business to Packer for $1.6 billion many years ago. But he was also my mentor. Mentors teach you different things. Jack teaches me about life. He teaches me about business. He teaches me about people. And he's also a great shoulder to cry on because he really deals with situations very, very well.

Mellissah Smith: But Peter taught me, one, how to make money. How to play the stock market, which is great. But he also... Always a good thing to do. But he also taught me about the fact that no matter how successful you are, you're still dealing with the same shit. You're still dealing with people. You're still dealing with money. You're still having days where you're going to be anxious, overwhelmed, et cetera. I think that was a really good lesson to learn because it makes you less lonely.

Jeff Bullas: Yes. It's good to have those sort of people in your corner that can help you navigate this journey of life and business, which is essentially life. It's a game you're playing, which is the game of making money. This life we live in is certainly something a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with, so how do you balance life or your personal life and business? Because that's a struggle may entrepreneurs have. Some are workaholics, and that becomes a real problem. They have a failure, and that can tip them over into darkness. I've seen that happen in front of me, and it can be devastating.

Jeff Bullas: How do you manage... Because there's a lot of loneliness in being an entrepreneur as well. It's one of the reasons we hang out is because we're doing business on our own essentially, but we need other people around us to support us and help. Doesn't mean we've got a team around us, but how do you balance... And this is a conversation we've had over a glass or two of wine in Las Vegas as well as in Sydney and Melbourne. How do you balance that?

Mellissah Smith: I think it's incredibly hard to balance, and I go through waves where I've balanced it really well, and other waves where I haven't. A great book to read is The Rockefeller's Habit and you're mentioning what resources do you actually use as an entrepreneur and what helps you? One of them is The Rockefeller's Habit. It teaches you to work on your business, not in your business. So every time I'm working on my business, I can take as many holidays as I need. I can turn up to work at any time in the day and it really doesn't matter. The minute I start working in my business, that whole equation changes. I read that book every time I feel like I'm overwhelmed and I'm doing it wrong. I think that's a good refresher to go, okay, how do I pick myself up out of that to be working on the business and not in the business?

Mellissah Smith: At one stage when I just had Marketing Eye, I was having up to three months holiday a year. That's a pretty great position to be in. Now I have no fun and no exciting holidays and I'm really under the pump. The reason is I am working in my business. I have a new startup, it is a new way of thinking. I am very old to be in a startup I feel because you just don't have that energy that you once had, and you're also more cautious. I am so much more cautious than I've ever been in my life because I have so much more to lose. I'm at a different stage in my life.

Jeff Bullas: Yep. And when you're in your 20s, you've got a future in front of you. You've got plenty of time. So if you make a mistake, you've got plenty of time to recover.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Bullas: And also you're starting with a blank slate. You don't have the complications, and you've got the time. And you've got the energy. I think that's one of the other things that a lot of the 20, 30 somethings actually bring to the table, is that incredible energy and drive because they've got time on their hands, and they've got that blank slate. They're willing to think blue sky. So it is a challenge.

Mellissah Smith: It definitely is. It's a huge challenge, and it's kind of good because it re-invigorates you in some way, but you really do have to roll up your sleeves. I'm back working seven days a week. I'm not going to lie about that. It's not the ideal position to be in, but I do have a startup. I have something that drains a lot of money on a monthly basis that's coming out of my back pocket. When you have a tech company, there's lots of developers that you have to employ, and without them, you don't have a product. Going through those phases of putting the investment there, making sure that you are wearing many hats.

Mellissah Smith: Now I'm lucky, I have a bigger business in my other companies, so I have two internal accountants and HR and all the things that you need to have in a business that are resources that I can grab. But when it comes to Robotic Marketer, there's so many more things that I'm doing that I probably haven't done for a lot of years, and I know that I have to do it.

Mellissah Smith: The other thing is, at times when you've got a startup, no matter whether you're in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, 50s, or 60s, is that you almost feel like giving up. You go, well is this worth it? I remember sitting with my accountant just last week going... And I don't mean to be crass, "Remember how rich we were three years ago? Remember how much money we had?" And that's a really crass statement to say, but in context to when you're running a startup, you feel so poor.

Mellissah Smith: You're putting all your money and all your efforts and all your energy into this startup. You're grabbing from other people. I know that I've rung you for advice from time to time to do with my startup because it's almost like you need more advice than ever before. You need to be surrounded with people that you see as being so much more smarter than you are, so that you can really pick out the best of the best to roll out a plan that's actually going to work for you and help you be more successful.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, so this raises another question that you rose. A lot of startups is a mix of using their own money. Quite often it's using other peoples' money. What's your thinking on that? Because I know that you've put a lot of your own money into that. There's no right or wrong on this. I've been involved in startup in New Zealand for a while, the Shuttlerock, and there was a combination of both the CEO and the founder's money as well as investors. So how do you balance that? What's Jack say about this?

Mellissah Smith: He says raise money early, and I'm a person who's sat on my hands a lot. So the position I'm in right now is all of my own doing. Having said that, I do have a small investor, Steven Jackson. He's a former NFL player in the U.S., and I had some of sort of that family friends type of money from him put in. Obviously that's long since run out and it's really me supporting the business at this point in time.

Mellissah Smith: But why I've done it differently is I am a mature-aged person. I do have some money behind me, and I felt that I wanted to make sure this worked, and that when I took on investors, I'm very ethical about what return on investment they're actually going to get because that's my reputation. Your reputation doesn't mean as much to you in your 20s as it does when you're hitting 50, right?

Jeff Bullas: Yep.

Mellissah Smith: So I want to make sure that at every single step of the equation, I'm being extremely ethical. My idea of ethics is different to everybody else's. That really not only the deal's in place, that we're actually rolling them out. And yes, we have significant deals with our company. We have an amazing pipeline in front of us, but I want to see them rolling out and in play and fix any of the issues that come along the way before I take in that big investment. We'll be looking at the $20 million plus investment in our next round, so I want to do it in that way. Is that the right way to do it? Probably not. Everybody said to me use somebody else's money, and they're totally right, and I don't know the answer of why I didn't jump on that faster.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I have heard of people that have used everyone else's money, been found as... I remember having a meeting a few years ago, it was a dinner. I met a founder of a billion dollar business that lost it all because the politics he got involved was outside investors coming in and changing the company culture. So it was able to scale, but he lost total control, and ended up with nothing. That I suppose is one of the potential risks of using other people's money if you're not careful.

Jeff Bullas: The other thing that you mentioned before, which you're working on the business and in the business, and also another thing is you identified very early on, which a lot of people that are just one-man bands don't realize is, and the question you raised which I thought a lot of entrepreneurs need to understand is how to scale.

Mellissah Smith: Yes. Really important.

Jeff Bullas: You started this pretty early by the sounds of it. What are some of the things you need to take into account when you want to scale your business?

Mellissah Smith: When you want to scale your business, number one, you need to work on the business, not in it. That's the most important thing that you need to take home from this podcast, is work on the business, not in the business. The second thing about scaling is you need to treat it like a franchise. You need to make sure you have every single policy, every single procedure, training manuals, how to develop your staff, performance review forms, the whole lot at your disposal in a working order long before you look at scaling. Make sure every single thing is in place because then when you scale, it's very, very simple.

Mellissah Smith: The other thing is, and I can refer back to Robotic Marketer here, but given it's a more early stage business, looking for distribution. No matter what business you're in look for distribution because if you've got distribution, you've got that secret sauce. If you do right by whoever's distributing your product or service, it means that that business will scale a lot faster than if you're just trying to do one deal at a time.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And I see this all the time. People will actually get a model that works and also getting access to major distributors. I know Jon Ferrara did it with GoldMine, now he's with Nimble, he's now doing it with Microsoft, with LinkedIn as an acquisition of Microsoft. So you're right, and I think with Robotic Marketer, you are actually working with some of the biggest media companies and software service companies globally. Is that correct?

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, definitely. We've really identified and are working with really large Fortune 100 technology companies. I'll be clear with that, it's technology companies and media companies. There is a media company in that mix. What they're able to do is distribute us to tens of thousands of people. For a startup to be able to have that type of distribution it's obviously amazing. It also gives us a really clear path forward, and it also helps fund other initiatives.

Mellissah Smith: It helps fund other development of technology because if you're developing technology and you think the product you have today is what you're going to have in 12 months time, then you should close your doors. Seriously, someone's going to come in and do something 10 times better. Time is really of the essence, so really developing more technology.

Mellissah Smith: But also we're in machine learning and AI, so what's really important is the diversity of the input of data that goes into our system. We really need those small businesses out there to actually be using Robotic Marketer for their marketing strategy. Without them, the technology's not that great. It's too much a technology marketing strategy platform. We don't want that, and that's not the endgame for us.

Jeff Bullas: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's interesting you bring up how much you're investing in technology, and that raises another question which is, essentially in this global economy that we're in now because in the past, businesses... If you'd done this 30 years ago for example, you would be just working locally in Melbourne, for example.

Mellissah Smith: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Now we have the opportunity with distribution, social media, email marketing, the internet. We actually have the ability to reach the world at scale.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah.

Jeff Bullas: So what's really interesting, essentially software as a service companies or software companies and tech companies, is it's really an arms race, isn't it, in terms of development to actually... Because it's not, someone's got more money, they can go and take what you're doing and just scale it.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, it's a challenge. I think what's really important is that anyone starting a technology company, that they really realize that. With us, we keep on doing things that it'd be very hard for the big companies to come and steal at this point in time. That comes with you've got a founder with 28 years of experience in marketing that has ideas and has ways of doing things smarter, faster, and better. I think that's been our secret sauce for now. Hopefully I don't get hit by a bus tomorrow, Jeff.

Mellissah Smith: But that's our secret sauce, but the truth of the matter is you have to move fast. You have to grow fast. You have to keep on developing and innovating. That's like any company. I don't care if you're an accounting firm, a recruitment agency, or a tech company. You need to move fast. You need to keep reinventing yourself. You can't stay the same.

Jeff Bullas: Yep. So really summing it up, you're saying there's really two key elements to this moving forward quickly. Number one is developing a software and innovating as quickly as possible. That comes down to an army of developers in the technology industries. Then the other one it comes down to is the actual global distribution. That's the other arms race you're up against, isn't it? Just making sure you get to market quicker, further, faster than anyone else.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, and you have to be in bed with the right people. Quite often small companies, we're a startup. Let's not mistaken that fact. We are a startup. But to be in bed with these big companies, it really allows us to scale much faster. At the moment, we're getting nine out of tens and ten out of tens for everything we're doing when they're rating us on every single project we do. So we're in this great position where we have these market leaders that say what we're doing is really good. If you can sell yourself to the bigger companies or the bigger distribution partners early, that's actually going to help your business tenfold and really help protect you, as much as one can be protected, against competitors in the market.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's fantastic. Now we talked about mentors, we talked about resources. You mentioned a book. Are there any other books that have guided you over the last 25 years that you recommend? I know for me, I'd love to hear what is the mentorship provided a book? For me, I love books because it really is a distillation of the wisdom of decades of experience put into a few pages. I'm a huge reader, I have been since I was five and used to read late at night while parents thought I was asleep. Any other books that you would recommend to our readers? Because I think a lot of people like to go, what's some good books to read? So Mel, is there any others you'd recommend that come top of mind?

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, well obviously Rockefeller's Habit, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, and one that I think has been the most game-changing for me outside of Rockefeller's Habit would be a book that's not about business. It's called Untethered Soul. It's by Michael Singer, and it talks to me about the fact that... I overthink things. I have all these things going on inside my head, these conversations. What would I do in this scenario? What's that person thinking? Or thinking about 10 things at once, and it clouds your judgment. It makes it harder for you to communicate. It affects the way that you work, and you will be more successful if you can clean that crap up.

Mellissah Smith: So Untethered Soul really teaches you that. It teaches you that you have a roommate inside your head, and you need to shut it up sometimes and turn it off. Therefore, you're living in the present. You're dealing with what's in front of you, not having these extra conversations inside your head. If you think about in life and in business, if you're able to put yourself in that position, it actually really trains you to be more productive. It trains you to really deal with the problem at hand as it is at hand and not overthink it.

Mellissah Smith: I find that every time I go off track, and I do, I'm a woman, so of course I go off track and overthink things. I'm also a Virgo, so being a woman and a Virgo, I'm forever overthinking things. So I have it beside my bed, and I'll pick it up any time I think I can't sleep because I'm overthinking stuff or I've got too much on my mind. I have it in two of my handbags, and I have it in every single one of my offices. I will stop in the middle of the day and I will read a chapter just to remind myself to be disciplined and go back to that way of thinking. It's almost like a bible to me, and I'm a little bit embarrassed to say that, but at the same time, I see the benefit in it for so many other people.

Jeff Bullas: Yep. That's fantastic to know. One of the most transforming books that I ever read was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. You've just described a very similar book, and I'm going to read it after we finish this podcast. In fact I might just go and buy it on Kindle on Amazon straight after we finish this. But The Power of Now for me was fantastic, and it can be encapsulated in a sentence, is "The past is gone, you can't change it. The future doesn't exist. The only thing you've got is now." And for example, we're having a fantastic conversation right now. What's wrong with that?

Jeff Bullas: It's really hard, and I remember I had some counseling about a year ago, and these conversations in our head are very interesting in that sense that they can take over your life, especially when you're in a tough time. The name he gave to it was the evil uncle. He said, if the evil uncle knock on your front door and came into your house and told you out loud what you're telling yourself in your head, you would tell them to get out of town. To get out of your home. And yet we allow these conversations to happen. I totally get it, and it's just great.

Mellissah Smith: You really wanted to swear then, didn't you?

Jeff Bullas: I did actually.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, I saw that. Getting called out.

Jeff Bullas: Well this is our first episode, so I suppose I'm just-

Mellissah Smith: Keeping it clean.

Jeff Bullas: ... I'm gently dancing around the roses here, and we might take it to a whole new level in the future, but... And one of the reasons I asked you to be on the show. Number one, as it's my first show, a little nervous because this is my first adventure into podcasting. I put it off for nearly four years. I've had the boom and the mic and all the gear ready to go in my cupboard for four years. So if you want to talk about procrastination, just come and see me, an expert procrastinator. But here we are, we're doing it now in all its glorious imperfection.

Jeff Bullas: One of the reasons I actually invited you on the show too is as a female entrepreneur, I want to encourage 50% of the world to actually bring their wisdom and empathy, and that is the ladies and the women of the world that I think we need to encourage to step into the light. It's one of the major reasons I invited you as well as being a great friend, and I knew you'd be kind to me if we didn't get the podcast sort of working, which we had a little trial recently which didn't quite work out. But here we are, and-

Mellissah Smith: On that topic of women, women taking other women with them. I don't know if you ever get the opportunity to read my Tweets. You're probably too busy and too famous on Twitter to see my little old tweets, but I'm a big believer that I've had so much time being in marketing and having so many opportunities. Public speaking and being on television and radio and media and all the rest of it, that now it's time for others to stand up. When I get given an opportunity now, I quite often turn around to somebody else I know that may be a competitor, might be in marketing, and say, "Hey, I've just been given this opportunity. Would you like to do it? Because I think your story would be great for that audience."

Mellissah Smith: So I think more women in business need to be confident in what they've accomplished and also realize that if we're really going to do something significant for other women, we have to share the limelight. We have to share that time on the stage. We need to share the things that we've learned, and until we start doing that, there will not be change. You can't just expect men to change; women need to change too.

Jeff Bullas: Yep. That's fantastic. I've been really impressed by what you've done over the last 25 years. It's been good to become friends over the last 18 months. The other thing that you've raised and you just sort of hinted at. How important are relationships in your business success? Because I came across a good friend of mine who's got a law degree, who's got an MBA, he's got a technology degree, and he wanted to be on a board of companies. When he approached companies to do that, they said, "Who do you know?"

Mellissah Smith: Yeah.

Jeff Bullas: Right? And he realized that there's a very important part to business that we quite often forget, and it's the soft skills on top of the hard skills. The hard skills of actually using technology, having the right team around you, the right resources. How important are relationships to you, Mel?

Mellissah Smith: Relationships are really important, but I probably have changed a lot over the years when it comes to relationships. Fewer relationships is better than more.

Jeff Bullas: More of that quality than quantity.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, absolutely. The other thing if you want to get on a board, then you need to do a bunch of different steps. You need to have a plan on how you're actually going to get on that board or to get on boards in general. What are the things that people are looking for? And it's not just a piece of paper that says you have a degree or X amount of experience in a certain industry.

Mellissah Smith: They need to know who you are. The industry or the business that they're working in needs to know who you are, and you need to be able to add value to that board. If you don't know the stakeholders on that board and the stakeholders in that industry, then you shouldn't be on that board. We have to think differently about relationships and our goals, and make sure we're actually putting plans in place to actually achieve them.

Jeff Bullas: Yep. You're on the board of several companies, is that correct?

Mellissah Smith: I am, but I don't think long term that's something that I actually want to be part of because obviously there's a lot of legal requirements and time requirements. To be on a board, you have to spend a lot of time doing work for that board. They pay you to be on boards, so you need to actually do something. You can't just walk up once a month or once every quarter. The second thing is that you really do need to participate in the industry of the board that you're representing. You need to really be adding value, and you should want to add value. It's not just a job. It's about making a difference to that company or that association or that charity. Boards are very different than what you think.

Mellissah Smith: With networking and building relationships, when I got to a conference for instance... Well if you want to be a speaker at a conference, quite often people will need to know who you are. I've had for years been organizing conferences myself. People send their CV or ring out and say, "Hey, I'm famous in the particular area. You need to have me as a speaker," or, "I'll do it for free," or, "I'll do it for $5,000," or, "I'll do it for $10,000," whatever. And I've never heard of them. So obviously you hang up and you never call them back. That's another thing. If you want to be a speaker, then one, you need to be able to show that you are a speaker. You need to have a really good story to tell and that people want to listen to, and you need to have a very good story that people want to listen to.

Mellissah Smith: Networking at events. We go to conferences, you and I were both at Adobe Summit in Vegas last year. That was fantastic, and we saw lots of people around us, even influencers, that were out networking with lots of different people. Going from one person to another and networking, really getting your name out there, dropping off business cards. But you and I did something very different. We probably picked five people, and we spent quality time with those five people. We built a real relationship that will last long after that conference. That's tended to be the way that I operate.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's something I really value as well, just having that quality time together, you and I, to find out about what drives us, what our lives are like, business and person. That was, for me, I so value that. That's actually what I'm doubling down on this year, and one of the reasons I'm doing this podcast is actually building quality relationships with people. I want to shine a light on them and bring them to the world, and people like yourself, Mel, there is so much genius out in this world that people have never heard of. I think doubling down on building quality relationships. This is what podcasts, I discovered, are really about. Not about being a media company or anything. It's about, let's have a fireside chat. Let's discover what drives Mel. What wisdom she bring and share, and that's what excites me. What you've shared with us today is just fantastic.

Jeff Bullas: Now we're just going to wrap it up here in a minute, but what are three things that you've learned as an entrepreneur that you think people that want to be entrepreneurs or already are, what are three things that you think are really important that you've learned over the last 25 years as entrepreneur?

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, definitely. The first thing is if you want to be an entrepreneur, and obviously have a business plan, have a marketing plan in place. We all know that people that have a plan in place are more likely to achieve their goals. I think it's like 42% of people are more likely to achieve a goal that they've actually written down. That would be number one, have a plan in place. Don't have it all inside your head. Don't come up with ideas on the fly and hope it works. Be more strategic than that, and invest your time, resources, and money much more wisely.

Mellissah Smith: Two would be never, ever give up. Even if it's not working, don't give up. There's another way around it. Be open to the fact that the most successful people in the world never, ever gave up. Don't sell the farm. I know that's a really hard one, and a lot of people have rags to riches stories, but if you've got a house, for instance, don't put your house on the line for a business. Find out other ways of doing it.

Jeff Bullas: So what you're saying there is that using other people's money is one thing, but I suppose the thing is entrepreneurs... Let's sum it up this way, is that entrepreneurs basically are all about not increasing risk or playing risky gambits but actually reducing risk.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, definitely that. And also the fact that it gives you comfort when you know you have something. You'll make better decision because you know that you have something to fall back on. When you have nothing to fall back on and you're all getting up there in age, and I have to be ageist about this because it really is a factor. If you've got nothing to fall back on, it can be crippling. It can cripple the way that you make decisions and the way that you go on that journey in business, and you don't want that. Having just a foundation and a base to build from is really important.

Jeff Bullas: Thanks, that's really great. So if summed the three major things. Number one is persistence, the other one is a plan, and the other one is make sure that you actually have a home to go to. In other words, you've got a secure place that you know that if it all turns to shit, basically you've got a place that you can call home and go to that's safe and secure.

Mellissah Smith: Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. That's fantastic. Mel, thank you very much for sharing your insights. It's been fabulous.

Mellissah Smith: Thank you.

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