Dan McGaw is an award-winning marketer and entrepreneur.
He is the Founder and CEO of McGaw.io, an analytics and marketing technology agency.
Dan is also the Founder and CEO of UTM.io, a campaign data governance tool used by companies like Shopify, Unilever, and Intuit.
Coined as one of the original growth hackers, and one of the godfathers of Martech (Marketing Technology), he has helped 100’s of companies build their marketing tech stack and accelerate growth.
In 2015, Dan was selected by the United States Department of State to be an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship, where he had the privilege to advise the government, universities, and private corporations on how to build entrepreneur ecosystems.
Dan knows what needs to be done to grow a business and how to manage a team to get it done quickly. Using a data-driven approach, Dan is able to build and oversee new marketing programs that can create sustainable growth.
The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business
What you will learn
- How to maximize revenue by creating multiple cash flow streams
- The dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket
- Why going with the flow worked for this entrepreneur
- How necessity can turn into success
- Why understanding the cyclical nature of your business is vital
- Why you should forget complexity and just convert customers on your website
- The importance of starting small and keeping it simple
- Why conversion should be your focus and not just demand and traffic
- The highs and lows of being an entrepreneur
- Why hiring the right people is the best asset you will have
- Why you’re only as good as your team
- The importance of communication skills
- Why soft skills matter in business
- Why data is vital for entrepreneurs to guide decision making
- Books you should read
- Build Cool Shit – Dan McGaw
- The Hard Things About Hard Things – Dan Horowitz
- Principles – Ray Dalio
- Stillness Is The Key – Ryan Holiday
Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Dan McGaw, it almost sounds like a Country & Western singer to me, but it is Dan McGaw, and is it McGraw the Country & Western singer, isn't it Dan, I think?
Dan McGaw: There's Tim McGraw.
Jeff Bullas: Tim McGraw.
Dan McGaw: Yeah I wish I was his cousin. Yeah, there's no R in my last name though.
Jeff Bullas: So it's Dan McGaw we have with us today and Dan is an award-winning marketer and entrepreneur, and I know he's an entrepreneur because Dan was selected by the United States Department of State to be an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship. So if the government says he's an entrepreneur, he must be. So Dan is the Founder and CEO of McGaw.io an analytics and marketing technology agency. He is also the Founder of a software company called utm.io, a campaign data governance tool used by companies like Shopify, Unilever and Intuit. I'm sure we've heard of a few of those.
Jeff Bullas: Dan is one of the original growth hackers and one of the godfathers, I do like that, of Martech and for those who don't know what Martech means, it means marketing technology because it's a semi acronym that's sort of been not quite shortened enough, Martech. And he has helped hundreds of companies build their marketing tech stack and accelerate their growth. So welcome to the show Dan, it's such a pleasure to have you and looking forward to hearing your story. So how'd you get into all this entrepreneurial stuff, where did it start?
Dan McGaw: Thanks so much for having me. So I think my entrepreneur journey started really, really young. I actually tried to start my first venture into business when I was about nine years old. And it's a really, really stupid thing. I got a mail packet about promoting boy bands and this was back when boy bands were really big, back in the early 1990s. And I was like, "Oh, I'm going to do something with this. I'm going to become a street crew and I can start a business doing this and I can make money" and come to find out when you grow up in the ghetto, a boy band doesn't exactly take off. So my first foray into trying to be an entrepreneur and do something venture driven to help a boy band didn't exactly pan out very well.
Dan McGaw: But later I did turn back to business. And when I was 13, I actually started an online booking agency. We were one of the first online booking agencies out there. And that's really where I got my start in business. And I was very successful in that company, ran that business until I was 19. I had a team of 13 people. We did a lot of successful deejaying events, a lot of different kinds of events, out in concerts and a lot of bookings online. So I've been an entrepreneur since before I even knew what it meant. I didn't know what an entrepreneur was when I first did it. I just knew I wanted to make money. And I didn't want, like at 13, it's kind of hard to make money unless you do it yourself sometimes.
Jeff Bullas: So you're basically born with entrepreneurship running through your veins by the sounds of it?
Dan McGaw: I'm a great employee, but my boss typically doesn't like me, because I'm trying to take his job. I just have that personality where I want to get my hands in everything and run the company. So I've been an entrepreneur my entire life. It's a blessing and a curse all the same time, I'm not going to lie. Some days I wish I could just take a job and relax, but no, I'm an entrepreneur. I really don't know anything else.
Jeff Bullas: So you're basically learning to... You were an entrepreneur as a teenager, so that booking agency, gigs and so on, how long did that last for? And when did you wind that up?
Dan McGaw: Yeah. So it lasted for six years. So when I first started it, I tried to start a record label. I got into the rave industry. I really fell in love with electronic dance music and was like, or somebody took me to a rave and I fell in love with, I was like, "I got to do this." I tried to start a record label, but I didn't know a record label was a bank and I didn't have money at 13 to loan to an artist and collect royalties on. I didn't know that's how it worked. So I pivoted to become a booking agency and then, I didn't realize that booking agencies were set up to not be online. So I created it online and we got pretty successful at that and I ran it for six years. It started just as a booking agency where we work with DJs and artists to get them bookings at nightclubs and different concerts and stuff like that.
Dan McGaw: And then it evolved into an event management company, where we were throwing our own concerts four to six times a year. So we're talking thousands of people at our... And we call them concerts, but they were really raves, I'm not going to try to lie about it. And then we were very successful and then when I was about 19, we had a very successful event that was in the middle of summer. The event unfortunately got rained out, but then we were able to still hold the event. We lost a lot of money at that show and it really wasn't good for the business. And I decided like, "Hey, I don't want to do this anymore." So I was able to sell out a bunch of my contracts that I had at the time. And I basically moved on past that business and kind of didn't really do anything good with my life for probably three or four years. But I did luckily exit that company with some cash in my pocket. I would not consider it to be an acquisition, like everybody's so excited, but I did have an exit where I left the business. Mind you, it was definitely not doing great, but I did leave with cash in my pocket. So that was definitely a nice way to leave it.
Jeff Bullas: What was the next step after that exit?
Dan McGaw: Oh yeah, so I moved from up North, I was living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is up North in the United States. And then after I left that, I moved down to Florida and I was going to come to a school down here called Full Sail and they're a music business school. And then I got here and I was like, "Well, this isn't really for me." I had some friends tell me not to go. So I kind of just hung out in Florida for about three years and I worked in some restaurants and I was a manager at a really large Irish pub at Disney World. Fun fact, I was the youngest manager on Disney property out of all 45,000 of their employees, I was the youngest manager out of all the people there. So that was definitely cool, but I worked in the restaurant business and nightclub business there at Disney property for a while.
Dan McGaw: And then I said, I want to get back to being an entrepreneur. And I basically went right back into business doing nightclub promotions. So I started a company called Untitled Management. And what we had learned is that when you're a nightclub venue, one, you need artists and you need people to come in to make a show, for that way to have the attendees come in. And then we also learned that liquor companies need a way to promote their products. And then there's also people that need to be able to go out on a Friday night. So what we were able to do was come up with a unique way to partner with all three of those, to create events at nightclubs and basically get paid by everybody. So we would promote liquor products. We would help get the DJs booking at whatever nightclubs there were. And then we would also take a cut of the people that are coming at the front door.
Dan McGaw: So I did that for about a year and a half, the economy crashed and then I pivoted that into a social media management company where we built custom Facebook apps and then this randomness has continued to happen ever since then. So that's kind of what happened after that one, but I started Untitled Management, which was super fun, but running a nightclub promotions company is cool when you're in your twenties but when you really start to think about the rest of your life, that's really, it's not a successful way to be. Well, I mean, I guess you can be a successful adult and still do that, I have friends who do that, but when you want to have a family and stuff like that, this is not a great lifestyle to live when you want to have kids and stuff like that. So at a certain point I had to move on past that.
Jeff Bullas: So you've obviously been, you've been in the digital age for quite a long term, but when you started the teenage gig that you've exited from, did you learn to build websites yourself? Was that part of what you learned or did you give that to other people to do?
Dan McGaw: No. Great question. So back then, it wasn't even about a webpage nearly as much because in the business, everything was based upon bulletin boards and forums. So nowadays we have Facebook, we have LinkedIn, we have all these different platforms, back then there were bulletin boards. So really most of the work happened on those bulletin boards. It was less about having a website, in our case was more about having a presence on those bulletin boards and forums.
Dan McGaw: I did learn HTML. I did learn CSS. So we did have a website and I was able to build all that stuff. I didn't delegate a lot of that stuff really, more of the problem that I think I've learned throughout the years is, I've always tried to do the technical components myself. I'm not a programmer, I'm not a developer. I'm definitely more of a business and marketing person, but I am also very technical. So I was very fortunate when I was four, my mom was a computer science major, so we had a computer in the house. I had to learn MS-DOS to play games. So I'm luckily very, very technical, but most of it was just done through aol.com and hacking things together through that. GeoCity sites, bulletin boards and things like that. But yeah, I typically would do as much of it as I possibly could myself.
Jeff Bullas: So you were doing a lot of bulletin boards, which was, I suppose, pre social media. So-
Dan McGaw: Yeah, that was social media. There was nothing else. That was all there was in 1998 right?
Jeff Bullas: That's right. Yeah so fast forward to about 2008, I suppose, when social media started to take off, what were your first impressions when Facebook and Twitter showed up? What were your thoughts and observations?
Dan McGaw: Yeah, and I have to admit, I was like the last one of all of my friends to be on any of the social platforms. I'm not the early majority. I wait until the early majority has gotten onto it so I can monetize people from it. So I really was like the last person who was on Facebook. I was on MySpace of course, because we had to do a lot of our promotion for the nightclub venues through that. And really, I looked at that as just a distribution channel for us to be able to get things out.
Dan McGaw: But when Facebook came out with the Facebook apps, which enabled us to build landing pages on Facebook, we turned our nightclub venture, Untitled Management, we basically pivoted that into another company called Tabbed.co and I started building custom landing pages inside of Facebook. So you could get a business-
Jeff Bullas: Yep.
Dan McGaw: ...to create a fan page, they would then go to that landing page and we would create all those custom pages for them. We would create contest pages, we'd create all kinds of stuff. Some other companies that you might've heard of, there was a company called Buddy Media that was really successful there.
Dan McGaw: And I was involved with all those kinds of companies, except for we were hyper-focused on custom development ones, not having a platform that did it, ShortStack would be another company. So we did a lot of Facebook app development, a lot of Facebook promotions, an interesting stat, the Orlando Humane Society. We helped them get over 12,000 animals adopted through their Facebook fan page in a year. So I worked a lot with social media, but I was probably maybe two years late to the real Facebook and Twitter party, maybe three years late to the party. I just turned it into a business. And that's what I focused on for a couple of years.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Well, social media can be a huge time suck personally as well as business so...
Dan McGaw: Well, Facebook put me out of business. So I have to admit that, and that was the best life lesson than I ever learned. Facebook decided they were getting rid of Facebook Fan Pages and I was making all of my money off of Facebook Fan Pages. That's where all of our subscription revenue came from. We got a heads up, luckily six months before they were going to kill it. They told everybody else about 90 days, 30 days before they were going to kill it. And then they got rid of them.
Dan McGaw: Well as you can imagine, when Facebook Fan Pages start to go away, everybody cancels their subscription. So I learned an important life lesson is that if all of your revenue is coming from one part of a company like that, that's so young and so new and they changed that feature, you can lose your entire business. So there will never be a time again that I ever invest that much energy into one feature from a company, because even Buddy Media, I think they got bought for $200 million, they were vaporized in a matter of weeks, I think Oracle or somebody bought them. I can't remember who it was, but the $200 million investment that a year later is completely gone. It's just a hard way to be in business based on one feature from a company.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And that's, I think as an entrepreneur, we're all going to be very wary of, is that putting all our eggs in one basket, I think, if you're going to exit and especially sell a company, if you had even 50% of your business or even 25%, I've heard like, have no more than 20% of your revenue from one source or one company.
Dan McGaw: Yeah. And-
Jeff Bullas: For me, even your marketing needs to be multimedia and multi channel because they're going to keep changing the rules on you. And that's how the big players work. Isn't it? So they keep changing the algorithms. So today you're running, your company McGaw.io, which essentially is a marketing technology agency. Tell me how you got into that and some of the challenges you've had and what you exactly do. So maybe just tell us initially how you got into it and then what the company does in terms of its primary focus.
Dan McGaw: Yeah. So this company was completely started by accident. I never wanted to start this company, never tried to start this company. I was head of marketing at a company called Kissmetrics. So I was running another startup of my own and then was of course working at some companies to make ends meet. When I left Kissmetrics I went back to running my other startup, which was called Fuel Z. It was a gas app. I had been running that company for about four years. We were coming up towards Christmas and my wife loves Christmas. Christmas is huge in our house. We have three sons. My wife was like, "Listen, your investors don't pay us enough money to really have a good Christmas. So I need you to go do some consulting and figure out how you're going to make some extra money to buy Christmas presents."
Dan McGaw: And I was like, "Sure, that's fine." At the time I was working out of a coworking space, I was the ambassador at this coworking space, naturally I'm one of the big entrepreneurs here in Orlando. So I was working at this coworking space, kind of turned around I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do 10 hours a week of consulting. Let me know if you know anybody that's interested. I'm only doing 10 hours a week for the next two months just doing it for Christmas." And I immediately had somebody say, "I think I know somebody who wants to talk to you." I'm like, "All right, whatever, we'll do lunch." And within two hours I had met a company called PowerDetails that then said, "We'll take all 10 hours a week, we'll take you right now." And I was like, "Oh, okay, cool. Well, that's awesome."
Dan McGaw: So, because I had told a couple of people, word got around that I was doing consulting. I'm a fairly well-known person in Orlando, well, I was I should say, when I was active in the ecosystem here. So a lot of people heard that I was getting into consulting and next thing I know I started doing that one consulting gig, another consulting gig came to me and said, "Hey, listen, we'll pay you $10,000 a month to do this." And I was like, "Okay, but I gotta figure this out." So I started taking on some of these clients, just expecting to do something until Christmas and then kind of move on, hired a few of my friends, just to help with some of the contracting stuff and be able to take in that cash. And I was like, "Great, this is turning out good."
Dan McGaw: Well it continued to happen for the next two months. So we get to December, next thing I know I have a company coming to me like, "We'll pay you $25,000 a month. We want you to run this brand" and I was like, "What?" And it was just this really big shock. And then another company came and then another company came and it continued to grow to the point where I was at like $40,000 a month in revenue come January. And my wife was like, "What's going on? Are we going to choose Fuel Z?" Which I already had and I had investors "Or are we going to choose this other thing?" And I said, "Honestly, let's choose this other thing. And we'll try to fund Fuel Z with the capital to try to keep that brand going."
Dan McGaw: For the consulting company, we didn't have a brand. We didn't have a logo. We didn't have a company name. We didn't have a website. We just had Dan McGaw, I'm doing some consulting. To do it I had to funnel money through my friend's agency. And I literally had checks cut to them. They would process the money. They would then pay the contractor so that way we could do some things legit. And then we said, "Hey, let's form a partnership with some other people." Didn't know what we were going to call it. We were just taking clients and running it under this other name, people knew it was me though. And then in February 2015, which was only three months after this all started, we decided, "Hey, we should probably do this." In a matter of two weeks, we had rented an office. We had started hiring.
Dan McGaw: At this point, we still did not have a company name. We could not figure it out. I knew I wanted to have something that said the word, amazing, because that's just my personality. That's everything I stand for is like, "Hey, life's amazing." And we were watching a TV show late at night, my wife and I, and this is a story that's on our blog now because we just rebranded from the old company name. She saw a TV show called Effin Science. And my wife was like, " Ha-ha you should call it Effin Amazing." And I was like, "Oh my God, you just said the best name ever. That's totally what we're going to name the company." And February of 2015, we became Effin Amazing, we were known as Effin Amazing as the agency up until May 2020. We just rebranded as McGaw.io, naturally Effin Amazing is not very appropriate, but it worked well for us, but that's how the company got started.
Dan McGaw: And I think for the first two years, we really didn't know what we were doing, why we were doing it. What were we doing it for? And we had a lot of problems, we almost went out of business two years in a row, just because we didn't understand the cycle of business that we were going to have. I'm a natural, just entrepreneurial stuff, but in the beginning we were an analytics and marketing firm with a backbone on analytics. And then naturally over time, we ended up becoming a marketing technology and marketing analytics firm. And we specialize in the stack, but a lot of people set out with this vision and this plan. And out of all my companies, I had a vision and I had a plan. This was the company where I was like, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing." And it just happened. And it keeps happening. I mean, so far now, I mean we have 13 full-time employees, we have another company that we own that has its own five employees. So it just happened.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So basically you're just getting into the flow, aren't you? You're going into a stream that's running and you just went with it.
Dan McGaw: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: And I think what happens, is a lot of people write very complex plans, they spend months writing it, they start and they're going, "Ah, this doesn't even work." They're solving the wrong problem and I think you certainly can overplan. It sounds like you didn't plan at all and it just happened and that is effing amazing, but it's not unusual. What I do today just came out of a passionate interest in what was happening with social media and wanting to write about it. So did I ever write a business plan for what I'm doing today? No. I haven't changed the name though I came up with a very similar name that you're using, my own name, and I had to do a whole workshop on that.
Jeff Bullas: So we eventually came up with a really creative name, Jeffbullas.com, and you've come up with the McGaw.io. Now a lot of people get very overwhelmed by this digital marketing and you talk about the technology stack, the marketing stack. So what are some of the biggest problems you see with clients understanding what to do? Where do we start? Do we do Facebook? Do we do Instagram? Do we do SEO? Do we do content marketing? So walk us through a little bit, how you explain it to your clients of what you're going to do and distill it into some simplicity, because I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by the complexity of the ecosystem we live in today. It's incredibly complex. So could maybe take us through how you explain what you're going to do to grow a company using technology and marketing today?
Dan McGaw: Yeah. I think the big thing is, so one, just to be very specific, when you talk about Instagram and SEO and content marketing and all that stuff, we would really bucket that in the digital marketing space. And that's really about creating awareness and demand. And for us, what we're really focused on in our company, is we actually don't do any of the digital marketing stuff. We're more focused on once somebody hits your website, how are we going to convert them? Once we get their email, how are we going to nurture them? How are we going to treat that customer once we have their actual data? So hyper-focused on that first party element of, "Hey, once they're on your website, what do we do? What is that optimization?" So when I talk to businesses that are trying to figure out the whole digital marketing ecosystem, you really have to try to be as pragmatic as possible and start as small as possible.
Dan McGaw: And you have to really understand that, you're dealing with a lot of competition on these digital channels. So you have to try to stay as focused as possible when you're getting started, you can't boil the ocean, do Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff at the same time.
Jeff Bullas: Yep.
Dan McGaw: You're better to start focusing on one of those channels and really getting good at that as much as you can. And I always advise everybody, steal from your best competitor. I have not in my career, I've innovated some really, really cool stuff, but don't get me wrong most of those innovations started from me stealing somebody else's stuff. And my biggest claims to fame is in my career where I have helped a company completely explode, was because I stole something from somebody else. And I modified it to fit in my framework. So naturally trying to get as much inspiration from other people as you can.
Dan McGaw: But the biggest thing that I would just say, what you have to start with, is you have to understand that if they can't convert on your website, it doesn't matter what else they do. And a lot of people tend to focus way too much on how am I going to drive traffic? How am I going to drive over here? And they don't focus enough on like, "Okay, this is where they actually purchase. Is this experience easy enough for them to go through?" So I really do try to make sure that people focus on, "Hey, where are they going to pay you? Is that experience good? Is that going to be really easy to do? Can they actually pay you money?" Because you'd be surprised, some people really bash that up.
Dan McGaw: And then of course work your way outwards, which is then drive demand, drive all the awareness. So I really try to keep it as simple as that. But naturally there is too much, you're probably experienced this as well. I mean, there's more social networks than probably people that are on the internet right now. There's a network for everything at this point. So there's definitely a lot of stuff going on, but focus on how they're going to pay you. And get that mastered first, before you try to drive that demand.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So that's basically you're trying to get them to make sure we convert them when they hit the website, because that's the foundation for everything essentially, look you can get all the traffic you like in the world, all the awareness but when they get there, you can't convert them from being interested to being a customer, then it's just a waste of time and money doing anything else.
Dan McGaw: I have and this happens all the time. We talk to a lot of e-commerce companies that are like, "Listen, I'm paying $2, CPL, cost per lead. And I got 50,000 leads last month, but only three of them converted." And I'm like, "Well, that's a big problem."
Jeff Bullas: Yep.
Dan McGaw: You're obviously able to get a lot of leads, which is great, your demands working, but they're not purchasing. So you have to solve that problem first, you just spent a $100,000 to get three purchases. I hope to God you're selling a Bentley. So you really do have to make sure that the conversion funnel is going to work. I mean there's simple solutions out there. I mean, companies like ClickFunnels, kill it there, make it really easy to make a funnel. So there is definitely easy products that make that nice and simple for you to do. And you can follow their templates. But I think a lot of people put this over-emphasis on driving demand without focusing on getting the actual conversion.
Jeff Bullas: And that leads us to segue nicely into talking about software that makes it easy for people. You run a company called utm.io, which is a campaign data governance tool. Explain what that means and what it does?
Dan McGaw: Yeah and it sounds so fancy when you say campaign data governance. That's the technical term of what the tool does. Naturally when you make an email campaign or you make any advertising, you have to attach UTM codes to it so you can track the campaign. So if you're not familiar with UTM codes, they're just a little bit of variables you can add to the end of a URL (Website link),so when somebody clicks it, they hit your site, google analytics knows where they came from. So it's just structured campaign data. Our product makes it really, really easy to basically create those UTM codes or make it so that your team can make those UTM codes. So it has a template generator in it. It has all kinds of defaults to it that make it a lot easier to build UTM code.
Dan McGaw: So next time you go to create that social media post, you open it up, and are able to get all the UTM codes on it, so you know where those people came from, you know what campaign they were in. If you're going to create an email, it just makes it a lot easier so you can add UTM codes. We're used a lot... We have a lot of free users that use our product because usually you have a UTM spreadsheet where if you're a company, you're tracking all these, our product is a free version of that UTM spreadsheet, just with a lot of superpowers.
Dan McGaw: And then for big companies like Shopify who have hundreds of people spread across the world, Shopify has those team members using our products so they all use the same campaign code because if you have bad analytics data, if everybody's seeing Facebook differently, the reporting is really bad. So we just make it easier to get good data into your analytics system.
Jeff Bullas: Because data is what you use to make the right decisions to make sure that, like you said, 50,000 leads, three converting, thats data, simple as that.
Dan McGaw: Got to be able to have the funnel metrics. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yep. So I'm going to link now into the position that you, the government selected you for.
Dan McGaw: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Which was the United States Department of State to be an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship. How did that happen?
Dan McGaw: Yeah, it was really, really crazy. It started on Twitter, which was pretty crazy. So the Mexican Consulate from the United States was working on an ambassador program for entrepreneurship in Mexico. And they were basically sourcing to try to find people that would be able to be good entrepreneur representatives of the United States, who have already built entrepreneurial ecosystems and have a good history in building communities of entrepreneurs. Some things that people don't know about me and I've been in Orlando for about 15 years, but when I was the head of marketing at a company called codeschool.com, the founder of that company and I were very passionate about entrepreneurs and we wanted to make Orlando a technology hub. So we started the first business accelerator here. It was called StarterStudio, we were the first funded business accelerator in Orlando. We had our first batch, eight different companies and then we were one of the catalysts that really got the entire city looking at the technology ecosystem and building an entrepreneur focused ecosystem.
Dan McGaw: So we had everybody from the local universities here. We had the City and the County heavily involved with us doing that. We were able to raise a lot of money to really build that entrepreneur ecosystem, we were heavily, heavily involved with that. So in the Orlando community, like I had mentioned earlier, I'm very well known in the community for starting that ecosystem and getting that kind of going.
Dan McGaw: When they were looking at people to basically bring into that program of helping be an ambassador entrepreneurship, how America does it. They were looking for people that already had that experience. And I was very, very active with it. So the Consulate in Mexico decided they were going to select those people. I had a friend who actually lived in Mexicali, who was able to get me involved with that and as well as to Tijuana. So they ended up bringing my name into it and then I went through a small interview process and then I was selected to do that. And then I also went into Tijuana, Mexicali and a couple of other places there and I talked with their governments, some of the organizations there, I spoke at multiple universities, it was a crazy whirlwind experience, but it was definitely fascinating to be selected to do that by the State Department.
Jeff Bullas: So that's quite an honor really to be chosen by the State Department to do that, obviously, to have your skill set and experience recognized formally. So as an entrepreneur, a lot of people will see that as, "Okay, I'm going to become an entrepreneur. I'm going to start," but the journey along the way can be exceptionally painful. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face, and what are some of the solutions to them? So your top two or three biggest problems that you see that entrepreneurs face and how they should solve them.
Dan McGaw: Yeah. I think the hardest problem is getting over the fact that it sucks. Being an entrepreneur for what it's worth and I've been an entrepreneur my entire life, it sucks. Your highs are really high. Your lows are really low. And all of those things that you see on social media with it being a rollercoaster, they are a hundred percent true, just maximize it by 10. Being an entrepreneur is really, really hard. It's not easy. And you have to set your expectations early. And I think a lot of people don't set their expectations. I sure as hell, I know I didn't. I didn't set my expectations, I was early. But being an entrepreneur, it can be the toughest thing you ever do. Life gets really, really hard when you don't have money. Life gets really hard and you can't make payroll.
Dan McGaw: Life gets really, really hard when you can't, you're going negative in your own bank account. And you have other people dependent upon you. So the biggest thing that I would just stress is that you have to set your expectations. And understand that being an entrepreneur sucks. It's really, really hard. I love it every day. I wake up early and I'm excited to go to work. I choose my own schedule, I do whatever the hell I want. It's great. So I always caution people to understand that being an entrepreneur, while it sounds fun, it's hard. Set your expectations. The next thing that I would say with an entrepreneurial, if there was any one lesson that I wish I would've learned earlier was, is that hiring is the most valuable asset that you'll have. If you can get hiring down, you can hire good people. You can train good people. You're only as good as your team.
Dan McGaw: The hardest thing that I've learned as a CEO over the years is at the end of the day, I'm the last person to find out about anything. So my people are the people that I have to be dependent on. And I think growing up the way that I did, I grew up very poverty line. I wasn't raised in an entrepreneurial family by any means. I kind of undervalued some of the hiring process. And I gave a lot of people a shot in places that they probably shouldn't have had that shot and no fault of theirs. I put them in a place where they couldn't be successful. So hiring would be the next huge one. And then the last one, which is still something that I'm still learning, which would be emotional intelligence and empathy.
Dan McGaw: I'm just a straight shooter. But at the same time, you have to be very conscious of how somebody else's doing emotionally, how being empathetic to somebody else's situation. And that's something that, as an entrepreneur, I really have had to learn. So I highly recommend people who are getting into this, to really do some soul searching. There's quite a few books out there which will teach you about yourself, but also how other people are. I think the book, Mastery of Self, was a great read for me to help me understand not only how do I master myself, but other people and how do I work with them? The Five Agreements is another really, really good book, but at the end of the day, people are people and we need to be empathetic. We need to be caring, but at the same time, people are the hardest dynamic. So I think that's some of the things that I hope people really focus on is the people are the hardest part.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's where it comes down to. You can have all the technical skills in the world, which is what we call the hard skills. How do I build a Facebook page? How to build a website? How do I convert? How do I generate leads? How to get traffic? These are all... But at the end of the day, the soft skills are pretty important.
Dan McGaw: Oh man, yeah.
Jeff Bullas: And having empathy, being able to listen, I think that's one thing I learned in my twenties is that, I observed my father and he was a good talker, but he was a crap Lister. And I made a promise to myself that I needed to work on being much better at listening. So I even went and did a six months counseling course, which is about creating awareness. If you're not aware of yourself, number one, you can't be aware of others. And if you're aware of yourself first, how you're coming across, how you're heard and then get honest feedback, then you're in a great spot to actually be able to be aware of others.
Jeff Bullas: So that was one of the most confronting six months I ever spent. And we had small workshops where we sat down and people would give you feedback. Very honest feedback about how they saw you as coming across. Then we had big open sort of group sessions as well. And then we also had a weekend away, very intense weekend, where we had to do a life map, which created a whole level of self-awareness in terms of your life journey. And that was very intense.
Jeff Bullas: But I totally agree with you, that last challenge, the one of being able to have the soft skills of empathy and great communication and quite often entrepreneurs don't see it as important because it's just all a bit fluffy.
Dan McGaw: Totally agree. Totally agree.
Jeff Bullas: Dan, just before we wrap it up, I know you've got some time constraints and so have I. What are two or three things that you would like to share with our audience to think that are very important for being an entrepreneur. I know you shared the big challenges. What are two or three takeaways that you would say that you really need to understand if you want to be an entrepreneur or to continue to be a successful entrepreneur?
Dan McGaw: Yeah. Well I definitely think there's a couple of things and I think I'll try to summarize it in a couple of books, which I think will do a better job than I can. One. I definitely recommend everybody to check out my book, it's a book called Build Cool Shit. It's all about how do you build a Martech stack. So as a founder and an entrepreneur myself, I built all of these stacks myself, a lot of cases. And I've worked with a lot of companies to do that. And our number one client at most of these companies is the founder, is the entrepreneur, who's now become the CEO. And the reason why that happens is because a lot of them have checked out my book, Build Cool Shit. If you go to McGaw.io you can get a free copy of it there. It's not a digital copy. It's a real book. So you're going to want to check it out, but it's a really short read that will help you understand how should you process all this customer data for your marketing. And naturally as an entrepreneur, you want to make sure that you can do really good marketing and that involves your customer data.
Dan McGaw: I think another book which was really, really eye opening for me, when I think about being an entrepreneur was a book called, The Hard Things About Hard Things, it was written by the one guy from, I can't remember his last name, Ben from a16z, Ben Horowitz. There we go. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, was a really eye-opening book to help me understand that being a CEO at a company is hard and it's harder than what anybody else is going to tell you about it. And that book had a lot of examples of how you can really prepare for that type of stuff and the way that you need to think about it. So I thought that was a really, really helpful book for me.
Dan McGaw: And I'm going to push this a little farther, the book Principles as well by Ray Dalio. It's a really, really big book, fantastic read if you're really trying to create excellence and you're trying to push the envelope of what the status quo of even what it believes in and how you can do it. I think the book Principles really helps you understand how far companies get pushed to be excellent. And how far a founder can push that company. And I thought that book was super, super helpful. I've used a lot of that in our company on how to be successful.
Dan McGaw: And then the last one, which I think is probably a book I wish it had come out much earlier is the book, Stillness Is The Key, by Ryan Holiday. Really fantastic book that taught me, I have a tendency as an entrepreneur to want to move quick, to make decisions and get things going. And that's kind of something that we hear a lot as entrepreneurs is we're supposed to be fast, we're supposed to be defiant, we're supposed to be hard and all these things, and really we should sit down, we should shut our mouths and we should think a little bit more and we should take more time and process. And in the book, Stillness Is The Key, they talk a lot about examples of super famous leaders that we're aware of and how they slowed things down so they could really make the best decision.
Dan McGaw: So if I had to give some tips, I mean, I would say read more, I've read 40 books this year alone. I challenged you to be able to do that. I'll read roughly 45 to 50 this year. I'll finish a few more books before the end. So read as much as you possibly can. And those are just a couple of books that will kind of push you in the right direction to make you an even better entrepreneur and hopefully a CEO.
Jeff Bullas: I think then fantastic tips and the last book you mentioned, Stillness Is The Key, a book that sits next to that is, Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, who very much wrote a book about stopping the mind shadow, just stopping, being still and let the world show up and get into the flow. And we've talked about flow, you didn't write a plan, but the world showed up for you.
Jeff Bullas: And I think stillness allows you to tap into that flow. And I certainly looked, that was a reflection recently as my father passed away, and I looked at-
Dan McGaw: Ah I'm sorry to hear.
Jeff Bullas: It's the circle of life and just Monday, my first grandson showed up, so there you go. Life starts, Life ends-
Dan McGaw: That's awesome.
Jeff Bullas: It's what you do in the middle that counts, that's called life. And I think you've revealed some really great wisdom about stillness being the key, because you need to stop so you can allow the good stuff to show up. And I think you've done that in a fantastic way. Thank you very much, Dan, for your time. And I look forward to catching up in real life when the borders are open and having a beer and maybe going to a rave, who knows?
Dan McGaw: I'll look forward to it. I'm excited. I can't wait to do it.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.