Carrie Kerpen is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, an award-winning content studio, and the author of the new book WORK IT: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business.
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Built to Sell and Profit First – Carrie’s Top Business Books
Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business – Carrie’s book
CarrieKerpen.com – Carrie’s website
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3 Value Bombs
1) Be comfortable in everything that you are — you are you.
2) Get rid of your hero complex and empower your team.
3) Don’t get intimidated by things you haven’t tried yourself.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[00:57] – Carrie runs an agency that creates and distributes content
[01:05] – She builds her business by connecting with smart women in business
[01:18] – Her husband, Dave Kerpen, was on Episode 128 of Entrepreneurs On Fire
[02:03] – Carrie’s expertise is in teaching women how to tell their stories and talk about themselves
[02:39] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: The only way to get ahead is to feel comfortable and learn how to get comfortable talking about yourself and promoting yourself in a way and tone that resonates for you
[03:15] – One of the best ways to use social media is by using stories
[05:00] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: It was when Carrie let her own ego get in the way and it caused her company a huge amount of money. Dave had a client overseas who set up a “Likeable” locally, where Carrie was the CEO. The client wasn’t happy with everything, but Carrie believed that she could fix things. So she flew out to the Middle East to put together the strategy. She had an amazing experience and everyone was on board. She flew back home, executed the strategy, and then later got a letter saying the client wanted half of his money back…
[06:51] – Carrie returned the money
[07:51] – “Get rid of your hero-complex”
[08:42] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: In 2013, Dave started a new organization, and Carrie was left to manage the whole company. She already had a problem with her self-confidence, and she felt like the industry was becoming more crowded with agencies like theirs. She thought about differentiating their agency – that maybe there were other women on social media who felt the same way she did: intimated by the men and their noise. So she went on and started her own podcast, All The Social Ladies
[12:25] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I think, ultimately, fear of risk”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Worry is a misuse of the imagination”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Total and complete focus on planning out my day”
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Built to Sell – “helped me developed our full-service agency into a content studio and build something really scalable and repeatable”. Also, Profit First!
[15:10] – Work It is a collection of smart women looking at how they made it happen. It will give you sparks of inspiration!
[15:37] – Connect with Carrie on her website
Carrie: I’m totally prepared to ignite, John.
Carrie: Yes, get ready.
John: Carrie is the co-founder and CEO of Likable Media, an award winning content studio, and she’s the author of the new book, Work it: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business. Carrie, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Carrie: Absolutely, so, I run an agency that creates content and distributes it across social media using social media advertising and influence or marketing, and I also care a tremendous amount about women in business and helped build my business through connecting with smart women in business and decided to write a book about it sharing their stories and my own.
John: You know that your husband Dave was Episode 128 on EO Fire and it took you 1800 episodes to join me. Why were you snubbing me this whole time?
Carrie: I mean I think it’s a whole male female thing –
John: Oh, don’t turn it into that Carrie. You are bold, you are a bold woman and you approached me –
Carrie: That’s true –
John: – and guess what, now we’re chatting.
Carrie: It’s true, but you know what? You have to learn – for women, you have to really learn to be bold. It’s not taught early on and men just kind of get it intuitively. Women have to overcome a lot to be able to be bold.
John: Well, there’s pros and cons. That’s why we put our foot in our mouth all the time too.
Carrie: Damn straight.
John: So, let’s talk about what you consider your current area of expertise, what is that?
Carrie: I think my current area of expertise is really teaching women how to tell their stories and talk about themselves in a way that is truly not only positive, but strikes the right tone and especially across social media using the latest and greatest tools.
John: Okay, so for all the ladies out there, don’t go surface level. What’s something that they don’t know, like a specific tactic or a tool or just something that you’re finding from this book that you’ve written and all this research that you’re doing that you really wish women just knew that they don’t because it’s your area of expertise, what do you want us to know?
Carrie: I want you to know that really the only way to get ahead is to feel comfortable and learn how to get comfortable talking about yourself and promoting yourself in a way – you can find a way that resonates and a tone that resonates for you, but PS, we are going to stay five steps behind if we don’t learn how to really be okay with posting and sharing our own successes.
John: Okay, let’s get a little more specific, like give us maybe a challenge or something that we can do, like one or two things specifically that can get us going down that road.
Carrie: I think one of the best ways that women can use social media is to start by using stories and I’ll tell you why. So, when you’re using Instagram and you’re posting pictures, it feels very permanent, it’s in the main feed, it’s always there, it’s a representation of who you are, and so women tend to obsess about the image that they put out. By using the stories feature, it’s something that’s within a 24 period. It’s there and then it’s gone. You can post lots and lots of content chronicling your day, chronicling your experiences, chronicling your life as an entrepreneur and you can do that in a way where it’s gone in 24 hours. So, it’s really fleeting and teaches you to get comfortable talking about yourself.
John: There is a challenge Fire Nation, get your message out there in a story. It’s going to be gone in 24 hours anyway, so go out there and just –
Carrie: Exactly –
John: Get going, get it out there.
Carrie: That’s the space to play; it’s really the space to test a message. Start testing all kinds of different messages and see what works. This is for men and women both by the way. If you’re learning what resonates for you as a business owner and what people like to know about you, you can just test it using stories. They’re fast, they’re fleeting, and they’re very, very quick to analyze.
John: So, back on Episode 128, your husband shared a pretty brutal worst entrepreneurial moment story with us. I’m not even sure if you listened to the episode, but if you haven’t –
Carrie: I listen to everything he does, of course, I do.
John: Fire Nation, you got to get in and listen to that episode because he was honest, he was just raw. It was a great story, but here we are 1800 plus episodes later and you’re behind the mic, Carrie, and you know, a lot has happened since then, I mean that was over five years ago. So, what is your worst entrepreneurial moment? Has it happened in the last five years? Was it even earlier than that? Like take us to that moment, tell us your worst entrepreneurial story.
Carrie: I’ve had several failures as an entrepreneur, but I think the one that I write about in the book and the one that really sticks with me is about when I let my own ego get in the way and cost our company a lot of money. Dave had set up a relationship with a client that was overseas and we were doing a social media strategy for them. Dave then left to start a new business, Likable Local, and I came in as CEO, and the client was very, very unhappy. They didn’t feel that the people doing the strategy were the right people, they wanted – it was a very complex global organization until with my own ego I came in and said, oh, I’m going to fix this. Listen, I’m new into the CEO, I’m personally going to do this for you. Great, they said wonderful.
They had prepaid us a significant amount of money to do this, and at this time I hadn’t yet really learned how to master the books the way I wanted to, and so they said to me, this is great, you can come out to the Middle East and experience all of this with us, learn all of these things about our organization, put together the strategy and if we’re not happy, we’ll want half our money back. So, of course, feeling great about this because, of course, I can save the day always and I am at the top. I mean, we’ve been doing social media strategy since 2006 when there was hardly any social media, and so I said great, I’ll do it, no problem.
Sat in a room with them, promised them, great, flew out to the Middle East, spent time away from my family, away from every other piece of business that I had, learned the ins and outs of this complex organization, had an amazing experience. We were onboard together, we’re all high fiving, we’re all excited, this is wonderful. I fly back, I put together the strategy, they do not get in touch with me at all. I don’t even have a chance to present the strategy. Then I get a letter saying, hi, we’d like half our money back, and so what I did was I returned the money.
I could have fought, I could have done a whole thing, and I returned the money, which was a substantial sum because I knew that I should have known better from the very beginning. I should have been able to track metrics, I should have had specific deliverables, I should have had something in that said, well, what if you don’t accept this deliverable, etcetera, what would happen, but for me it was so much time wasted on something that I should have been able to see from the upfront was a big misstep, and that was because I had a hero complex. As head of the organization, I thought, oh, I can save the day, it’s me, there’s nobody but me at the top and of course I can do this, when in fact, it was not set up for success from the beginning.
John: So, with all of that, Carrie, you learned a lot of lessons. I mean, I was just going through a cycle of lessons that I’m learning through that experience, but what’s really the one thing that you want to make sure our listeners get. If they can only really absorb one major life lesson, what is that?
Carrie: From that particular story, there are lots of little tactical lessons in there, but the main one is get rid of your hero complex that only you can save the day. You have to realize that you have to empower your team to do everything they can to make something right. You have to be able to turn in – you know, really use the team together to make it right, and abandon – if something didn’t work three times before you tried it, why would you try and make it work. Like look at the history of the situation beforehand and realize that you’re not going to swoop in and save the day.
John: Carrie, you’ve had a lot of great ideas over the years. One of the most recent ones obviously is to create Work It and to write that book –
Carrie: Yes –
John: – but what is one of those greatest ah-hah moments that you’ve had, like take us to one of those and tell us that story and really kind of make sure to tell the story and then unpack how you turned that specific idea into success.
Carrie: You got it. So, when I founded Likeable Media with Dave, this was really easy because Dave – first of all, there was no competition in social media when we founded the agency in 2007 around social media marketing. So, Dave was the visionary. He was the CEO; it was a very clear role. He was the face, he set the vision, he was it, and I was the operator. I made sure we had staff; I made sure our clients were happy; I made sure things were working well; I made sure bills were paid. This was a very comfortable spot for me. So, when Dave in 2013 started a new organization and I stepped into the role as CEO, I had a real crisis of confidence.
My first crisis of confidence was that I hadn’t done this before and was uncomfortable being in a role that I wasn’t naturally cut out to do. It wasn’t like I was, oh, yay, I’m confident, I’m going to lead, I’m going to be the face. I didn’t want to talk about myself all day on social media. Felt very uncomfortable, and second was that the social media space was much more crowded. In 2013 everyone created social media content. This was something that was now kind of old news and we had to differentiate. So, when I was sitting there and taking over the role, I was looking at what other leaders were doing.
And most of the leaders were loud and extraverted, putting themselves out there as thought leaders all the time and they were almost all male, and so I was feeling really at a loss. I wasn’t loud, I wasn’t extraverted, and I certainly wasn’t male, right? So, I was thinking, what could I do to differentiate our agency, and that’s when I started thinking, and, of course, I do all my best thinking in the shower. I was in the shower and I was there – I think it’s because we don’t have our phones on us, by the way –
John: Totally –
Carrie: – we’re like literally naked. So, all we can do is think. So, I was in the shower and I was singing to myself, a little Beyoncé as I always do in the shower, and I was singing, all the single ladies, all the single ladies –
John: All the single ladies –
Carrie: Uh-huh, and all of a sudden I started thinking, all the social ladies, all the social ladies, and I started thinking, wait a minute, if I find these loud male voices kind of annoying and intimidating and I’m uncomfortable telling my own story, maybe other women who work in social media feel the same way –
John: Yes –
Carrie: – and maybe there are women on the brand side who could be my clients who feel the same way. So, maybe instead of telling my own story and talking about myself all day, I could tell their stories and give them a voice, and so I started a podcast called All the Social Ladies, and I interviewed women who not only – I interviewed women who could be potential clients, I interviewed women who could be potential partners, I interviewed women who I just thought were really impressive across social media.
And ultimately what happened was, A.) I told stories of women who didn’t get their voices out there enough so I helped them, B.) I started getting a listener base which really boosted my own confidence, and C.) I was able to double the business because I found this way to network that felt more intuitive and comfortable for me, and so that was really my ah-hah moment for the business, and something that I realized where I realized that everyone doesn’t have to do business the exact same way. If I follow Dave’s format, I won’t succeed. If I follow a lot of these leaders’ formats, I won’t succeed.
I can only follow my own format, and that’s when I became really obsessed with teaching women how to find and follow their own format, and so that was my biggest – that was one of my ah-hahs that I’m really, really proud of.
John: Fire Nation, next time you find yourself singing in the shower, just say to yourself, you know what, this might turn into an ah-hah moment, let me just keep on singing –
Carrie: Exactly –
John: Let me just keep on singing –
Carrie: Exactly, and all the ah-hahs come at the shower or at my daughter’s orthodontist because I’m literally sitting there miserable, like sitting there while they’re adjusting the braces, and I’m like what great idea can I think of now that’s it.
John: Fire Nation, if you think Carrie’s been dropping value bombs, you’re right, and guess what, more are coming up in the lightning round when we get back from thanking our sponsors. Carrie, are you ready to rock the lightening round?
Carrie: I’m totally ready to rock the lightening round.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Carrie: I think ultimately fear of risk. I had a child when we started our business, and I think that was ultimately really scary to me, but looking back, there’s no reason to really feel any more risk as an entrepreneur than there is to feel taking on a new job where you can be fired at any minute.
John: Yeah, I just got an email this morning from someone that said, John, I just got fired for the third time in two years, I’m so sick of this, like I need some stability, I need to become an entrepreneur. I’m like, you’re darn right you do.
Carrie: Yeah, of course you do. I mean, I think once you become an entrepreneur, it’s like impossible to go back because it’s the best, most freeing feeling in the world.
John: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Carrie: I think the one that I really love is worry is a misuse of the imagination. I think a lot of times when I would worry about cash flow when we were starting up and growing really quickly, worrying about it did absolutely nothing. Planning, getting educated, all of that, but worry is taking – using your energy to image a worst case scenario does absolutely nothing for you ever.
John: It just takes up mental bandwidth, Fire Nature, and you only have so much mental bandwidth; use if for good, not evil.
John: What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Carrie: Personal habit that contributes to my success is total and complete focus on planning out my day. Planning out my meals, planning out my exercise, and focus on myself. I wrote an article once that was If You Want to be a Better Leader, Put Yourself First, and I think for women in particular who take care of – men do too, but of children, of the household, all of that stuff, it’s very, very hard to put yourself first. Got to put yourself first, and that starts with obsessive planning around your day, making sure you have time for you.
John: So, to join the book Work It on our bookshelves, what book would you recommend to Fire Nation and why?
Carrie: Well, for entrepreneurs, the book that helped me the most – there are two, Built to Sell by John Warrillo, and then Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. I mean, unbelievable. I love stuff that gives me very practical, practical tips. Profit First is killer. It helped me really get our business way more profitable than it ever was before, and then Built to Sell helped me develop our kind of full service agency into a content studio and it helped me really focus on building something scalable and repeatable.
John: So, Carrie, let’s end today on Fire. Break down a little more about Work It: The Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business. Why should Fire Nation read this?
Carrie: You should read this book because there are a million different books with specific philosophies. You could be a girl boss, you could be a boss boss, you could lean in, all of these different things, and what this book has is a collection of smart women, not just famous women, women all across the globe, looking at how they did it, and it will give you sparks of inspiration from each woman. We are not all the same, and so one philosophy doesn’t work for everyone. You need to take a look at this book and see what inspires you and start to develop a format of your own.
John: So, what’s the call of action, what do you want Fire Nation to do to either connect with you or to find your book, what’s the best place?
Carrie: Want you to go to workitthebook.com to buy it and anything you want to connect with me, go to carriekerpen.com or you can go check out our amazing work at likable.com.
John: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You've been hanging out with CK and JLD today, so keep up the heat, and head over to eofire.com. Type Carrie, that’s C-A-R-R-I-E in the search bar, and her show notes page will pop right up, but maybe a little bonus, type in Kerpen, K-E-R-P-E-N, and both Carrie and Dave’s podcast will pop up and you can do a little back to back. That could be pretty fun especially because they’re five years in time separated. Could be really neat to maybe listen to, and of course, head over to workitthebook.com, secrets for success from the boldest women in business.
Carrie, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we'll catch you on the flip side.
Carrie: Thanks JLD.
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