Michelle Van Otten is the Founder & Lead Strategist of Profit Ventures, a global Brand & Marketing Consultancy based out of Silicon Valley. PV fuels the growth of early stage technology startups through one tailored program that offers the very best in building the right strategic brand & marketing foundation that makes real growth & scale possible.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:12] – Michelle was a triathlete
- [01:30] – Michelle loves traveling and connecting with people
- [01:49] – Branding and marketing are big parts of Michelle’s life
- [02:14] – The niche that Michelle perfected is with tech entrepreneurs
- [02:39] – “Good ideas for the world aren’t happening fast enough”
- [02:50] – Research and strategy are often overlooked for the majority of entrepreneurs
- [03:10] – Strategy comprises of business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy
- [03:53] – Strategy enables you to dominate in your market
- [04:13] – If you do research and strategy right, it creates clarity and expert positioning
- [05:10] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: “You have to get to a point in your life where you embrace failure”
- [07:13] – The hardest part for Michelle was that she let down their investors
- [07:36] – “You’ve got to really be careful who you attach the wagon to”
- [07:51] – Michelle, as a child, would tell herself that she wasn’t going to have partners when she created her own business
- [08:04] – 1 in 30 people are psychopaths
- [08:10] – DO your background homework before you decide to attach the wagon
- [08:29] – JLD loves ships, but definitely not partnerships
- [08:57] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Michelle feels really blessed with the amazing CEOs in Silicon Valley
- [09:30] – Understand people better than they understand themselves
- [09:40] – Michelle had a breakthrough epiphany years ago
- [09:45] – There are 5 core things that, subconsciously, every human needs to have in order to feel connection
- [10:04] – When you implement them in business and relationships, it’s a win-win
- [10:52] – The 5 core things are: Do you love me? Do you share me? Do you see me? Do you value me? Do I matter?
- [11:24] – Doing the 5 core things will fast-track building the deepest connection with your market
- [12:07] – Think about how you can apply these 5 core things into one area
- [12:59] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “It’s technology”
- [13:40] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Fear of leaving a high paying position”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “When you start is never when you’re finished”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Shattering what the brain perceives as a comfort zone every single day and pushing the envelope of my own self-evolution”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – AppSumo
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Awakening your Inner Genius by Sean Patrick is a captivating account of stories of geniuses from the past and how it relates to our everyday, entrepreneurial lessons
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have – your food and shelter is taken cared of – but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days? – “I’d build an e-comm store”
- [15:59] – Connect with Michelle through her website and Profit Ventures
- [16:11] – Always trust your gut, really think things through, and listen to your intuition
Michelle: I am ready. I am prepared. Yes.
John: Michelle is the founder and lease strategist of Profit Ventures, a global brand and marketing consultancy based out of Silicone Valley. PV fields of growth of early stage start-up technology through one teller program that offers the very best in building the right strategic brand and marketing foundations that makes real growth and scale possible.
Michelle, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Michelle: My personal life. So, that has nothing to do with business, JLD.
John: I know I love it.
Michelle: I'm the former tri-athlete, adventure racer. I've been involved in outdoor sports for a long time. I love mountain biking, so, you'll probably find me outside on the trails or doing something extraordinarily adventurous.
So, travel, lots of that in my personal life and just meeting people, connecting. I feel like a collector of extraordinary human being’s and I love to meet great people.
John: Love that. And any gaps that you’ve filled on the business side, or did I just crush that in the intro?
Michelle: Well, you know, branding and marketing and positioning strategy are definitely my thing at some – like my whole life’s journey has pretty much led up to that point. So, I'm doing the work in the world that I'm supposed to be doing.
John: What is your area of expertise? If you could just break it down into a couple sentences, what is that niche that you just have perfected?
Michelle: It's really working with tech entrepreneurs and really helping to evolve tech companies, and primarily through building that foundation through branding, strategy and positioning.
John: Within that, what don’t we know about that area of expertise that you just broke down for us that we, as entrepreneurs, need to know?
Michelle: I'll be honest, good ideas for the world aren’t happening fast enough. In fact, that’s really, that’s kind of our motto. And there are two things that are most important and I think really often overlooked for the majority of entrepreneurs, especially those that want to build a highly successful venture. Because most of them either roll their eyes or they glaze over when I talk about these two things, but, that’s why there's a 1 percent club and those two things are research, and I mean sniper good research, and strategy.
And strategy comprises of three different things; business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy. So, for the record, ready, fire, aim is not a strategy. And a lot of entrepreneurs they take that bone-headed stance. They don’t mean to do it, but they just don’t think this is as important and that you, kind of, hear –
I hear the same thing over and over again, “I'm too busy to do market research.” Well, it's sort of like if you're – why are you wasting everyone’s time and money then if you're not going to perform these two things. So, no matter what type of business or industry you're in, you’ve got to build a foundation for success and strategy is what enables you to really dominate in your market and you’ve got to be able to have the right research in order to know what you need to strategize.
So, I think those two things are what sexy and exciting because that’s what allows you to find all the holes and the opportunities in your marketplace, and when you do this right, it creates clarity and expert positioning and the right plan of execution that allows you to have speed and momentum. And you know, money love speed, right? So, you can either build a house of cards or you can build a skyscraper that’s starts with the right foundation and go big.
John: Strong stance, Michelle. Strong words. That’s what I like about you, so, love that. Now, let's move into your journey a little bit because you’ve been doing this for a little bit. You’ve had the ups, you’ve had the downs. I don’t want to just talk about one of the tough times; I want to talk about the lowest of the low. Take us to your worst entrepreneurial moment. Tell us that story.
Michelle: You know, I knew you were going to ask me this question and I have been fearing this the whole time. It's funny because, you know, we never want to talk about our ass-scraping, face-scraping on the pavement scenarios, but –
John: Here we are.
Michelle: I know, I know. And, you know, I'll just preface this by saying to every entrepreneur out there, you have to get to a point in life where you learn to embrace failure. Because failures really isn't failure, it's just totally – It's lessons, that’s all it is. And so, my biggest lesson was way back, really in my beginning days just working with a technology start-up company – A transportation technology start-up company – I won't name names.
But I will just say that I ended up raising significant amounts of capital for this company. Came onboard as their CMO. Did two years’ worth of blood, sweat and tears work only to find out that the CEO was spending the money, had a drug habit, and literally ended up being bi-polar and having these manic episodes where he just ended up going nuts. Completely blew the entire project and everyone was massively let down and disappointed.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. That’s like, kind of, one of my worst, worst experiences.
John: I want to dig deeper than that. Because that’s just a little too surface level. What was your worst moment within that. Like, where were you? Were you crying in a pillow in your bedroom? Were you driving somewhere? Like, where was that moment when you felt the lowest of the low?
Michelle: The day I realized that there was no money in the bank account, he had never even put the funds to use for the slate of projects that we had specified when the money came in. I raised a lot of money. So, it was this moment where I realized that was happening and it was that gut level fear that I had assumed. I kind of had these inklings or feelings that it was going on, but I didn’t want to believe it because there was just no way, right? But the moment where that was a realization for me, I think the hardest part was knowing that I had let down our investors. Thinking about all that money just literally getting flushed down the toilet.
John: It's heart-breaking. It is absolutely heart-breaking. And Michelle, if you really just had to pinpoint the major lesson that you walked away with, and you want to make sure our listeners get from that heart-wrenching moment, what would it be?
Michelle: You’ve got to really be careful who you attach a wagon to. I mean, I remember my father having entrepreneurial dealings of partners and my dad just going through hell with it. And I remember as a little girl saying to myself, “When I grow up and I have my own business, I'm never going to have partners.”
So, I think you’ve to keep some statistics in mind. 1 in 30 people are psychopath. And it's an overwhelming, staggering number of people who are actually narcissistic in high place. So, you got to do your background homework before you decide to attach your wagon to somebody else’s venture.
John: Hey, those numbers are startling, I will absolutely say. I mean, think about that, Fire Nation. And I'll say this, Michelle, I'm in Puerto Rico, I love all kinds of ships. I love white ships, black ships, tall ships, small ships. But I don’t like partnerships, and I never will. It's just not my thing. I'm not going to lie.
So, Michelle, let's, kind of, move into a different story. This one’s going to be a little easier for you to tell because it's not your worst entrepreneurial moment. In fact, it's one of your greatest ideas that you’ve had to date. So, take us to an ‘Ah-ha’ moment that you’ve had, bring us there, tell us that story.
Michelle: You know, I feel real blessed to have worked with amazing CEOs here in Silicon Valley. Because I've grown up here, pretty much cut my teeth in Silicon Valley and I'm very lucky to have had contact and worked with, in some capacity, consulting or, to some degree, coaching entrepreneurs and CEOs here in the valley. So, I wouldn’t say it's any one particular moment, but it's kind of a culmination of working with high level people and all types of people. I really sought to do one thing and that was to understand people better than they understand themselves.
And there was a point where I just really had this breakthrough, epiphany several years ago where there were five core things that subconsciously that every human being needs to have in order to have to feel connection and to really – these are things that either you can implement in a relationship or in your business, and when you implement them in both, it's a total win/win. So, can I tell you what those five things are?
John: I'm standing by to count.
Michelle: Okay, so there are five core things that I can share with you that will create and exceptional brand and exceptional customer experience and it's literally building them around these things. Do you love me? Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do you value me? And do I matter?
Michelle: When you build a customer experience and you're marketing around those five things, you create such an incredible connection to your market that people literally love, to look for everything that you do. They want to buy everything that you sell and they want to be a part of your experience. They want to be a part of your community. It's a really fast track to build the deepest level connection with your market.
John: So, then that ‘Ah-ha’ moment, what do you think is the one tangible thing that our listeners can walk away with and maybe implement in their life and their business right now that’s really going to set our pants on fire?
Michelle: I would just say think about starting – how could you apply these things into just one area. So, for example, let's look at email marketing. How can you start connecting with people at a deeper level implementing some of those five principles?
John: Furnish, what I think something important here is to come up with your core. Like, know what you stand for. Know what you believe in. Know what your gut intuition is telling you, this feels right, this looks right and move towards that and just keep listening along the way. Don’t ever stop because that’s what going to be getting you closer and closer to what is going to be your version of happiness within life, balance, work, et cetera.
So, Michelle, moving forward for you today, we're here in 2017, you’ve a lot of cool things going on, what's the one thing you're most fired up about, today, specifically. What gets you excited getting out of bed in the morning?
Michelle: It's tech. It's technology and tech is moving the world forward at a very, very fast pace and I fiercely support entrepreneurism, especially right now because we need to do more to help entrepreneurs to be successful in their ventures and in getting their products to market that are going to make a difference for people, planet and profit. And I think that, for me, absolutely without a doubt that’s why I exist every single day.
John: Fire Nation, we've been dropping value bombs all along this chat. We got some more waiting for you in the lightening round after we thank our sponsors.
Michelle, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
Michelle: I'm ready.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Michelle: Fear of leaving a cushy, high-paid position as a Wall Street trader. I used to work at a top-tier investment boutique, best bank in San Francisco, launching and trading IPOs during the 90s.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Michelle: Where you start is never where you finish.
John: What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Michelle: Shattering what the brain perceives as a comfort zone every single day and pushing the envelope of my own self-evolution. Something that pushing that every single day.
John: Can you share and internet resource, like in Evernote, with Fire Nation?
Michelle: I'm actually a huge of the AppSumo, guys. So, I'd have to say, I love AppSumo.
John: If you could recommend just one book, what would it be and why?
Michelle: Awakening Your Inner Genius, by Sean Patrick. A captivating account of stories that really – two geniuses from the past and how it relates to our everyday entrepreneurial lessons.
John: Michelle, let's end this today on fire with a parting piece of guidance. The best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say good-bye.
Michelle: You can connect with me at either one of my websites; michellevanotten.com or profitventures.co.
John: And what's a parting piece of guidance?
Michelle: Always trust your gut. Really think things through and really just listen to your intuition because it's never wrong.
John: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people that you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with MVO and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com and just type Michelle in the search bar. Her short-list page will pop up with everything that we've been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore. Michelle, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Michelle: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, John.
John: Hey, Fire Nation, I hope you enjoyed our chat with Michelle today. And if you're ready to knock over that domino and start your chain reaction of awesome, check out the freedomjournal.com and I will catch you there, or I'll catch you on the flipside.
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