Ben Kirshner – CEO of Elite SEM

[quote style=”boxed”]I question whether I’m the right person for the job. Does my skill set get in the way of the company’s growth? Don’t have a big ego. Ask yourself, “Am I the reason we aren’t growing? What skill level do we need to continue our growth?”[/quote]

Ben Kirshner is the CEO of Elite SEM, an award-winning, fast-growing online marketing agency with a passion for building a team of elite industry experts. Ben is a serial entrepreneur with over 13 years of experience building high-growth search engine marketing campaigns for Fortune 1000 brands, and he is an Adjunct Instructor of Digital Marketing at NYU. Ben is an entrepreneurial thought leader and an SEM expert, and he can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

Where did the idea for Elite SEM come from?

I started in SEM in 1998 with Coffee for Less, and I saw how strong the ROI was at the time, when pay-per-click was powered by on Yahoo. From there, I noticed a larger demand as the retail industry evolved into e-commerce.

What does your typical day look like?

I spend my day working on strategy, new opportunities, and new vendors, as well as consulting with clients to find the next hot idea, even if that means going outside of search. I don’t have a standard schedule, but I have the opportunity to do lots of different things.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I work from a painted picture — it’s all working backwards. We see our vision, and we work backwards to accomplish those goals. I don’t see things as risky because we know the end result we want to achieve.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m excited by mobile personalization, meaning when I walk into a coffee shop, my cell phone will automatically tell the cashier what I like and automatically pay, too. The retail experience will become much more personal; it will be transformed because of technology. Everyone will receive their own customized shopping experience.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked on a water delivery truck. I had 5-gallon bottles of water to pick up, and I carried and delivered 100 bottles each day. I learned manual labor was not for me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I question whether I’m the right person for the job. Does my skill set get in the way of the company’s growth? Don’t have a big ego. Ask yourself, “Am I the reason we aren’t growing? What skill level do we need to continue our growth?”

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends” by Tim Sanders is the basis of our strategy. We believe that if you’re good to others, others will be good to you. We helped grow our vendors and, in return, they felt compelled to refer us business.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I don’t have one I’m not working on myself! However, it would be nice to walk into a supermarket and be told where to go to find each thing.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I have my captain’s license for sailing.

What are your three favorite online tools, software or resources and what do you love about them?,, and would all make my list. Grovo and Lynda are educational and help our team learn more about the things we run into all the time. helps align our company.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’d recommend “The Five Dysfunctions of Team” by Patrick M. Lencioni. It really hits home on how successful companies are successful because of how their teams are aligned — and how there might be people on your team who aren’t there for the right reasons.

List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur and why?

Cameron Herold, BackPocket COO: He showed me how to build a great culture and helped instill core values. He also helped me develop a core purpose for why I do what I do, which is “create great lives for great people.” He’s a brilliant coach and mentor, and his guidance contributed tremendously to my success.

Ken Kalb, Analog Analytics: He’s my serial entrepreneur idol. He has such a drive and energy inside of him that makes me want to work harder every time I speak with him. I’m very grateful for all the guidance and wisdom he’s given me over the years. Every entrepreneur needs mentors, and he’s one of mine.

Roy Hessel, I can’t say enough about Roy’s brilliant business mind. I learned everything I know from him. He has accumulated such amazing experiences from doing business all over the world that he brings great perspective to the table when I have an issue to discuss. He seems to always have a brilliant response and solution to any roadblock I face. (Side note: I think his wife taught him everything he knows.)

What did you have for breakfast today?

I had oatmeal from Starbucks.


Ben Kirshner on LinkedIn:
Ben Kirshner on Twitter: @benkirshner‎
Elite SEM on Facebook:
Elite SEM on Twitter: @eliteSEM