Living in another culture, learning a new language, being immersed in something completely new and foreign. It’s thrilling and rewarding and it opens up entirely new perspectives on life and business.
Collin Slattery is a life-long entrepreneur, digital nomad, classically trained musician, and founder of Taikun. Taikun is a digital marketing agency headquartered in New York City providing data-driven pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization services to small and mid-sized businesses. He started his first business at age 10 selling magazines, ran a successful card-selling business in high school, and he started Taikun in December 2009 as a side project with $134 and a dream. Since then, he has built Taikun into a successful digital marketing agency with aggressive plans for future expansion.
In addition to his work operating Taikun, Collin has also spent time as a professional poker player, day trader, and marketing director for a retail chain. He is the founder of two additional pre-launch tech startups in the dating industry and the fundraising industry. He is also a former Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.
Collin currently lives in Buenos Aires Argentina where he is opening up Taikun’s first Latin American office and is planning the next destinations for his digital nomad journey. While not working, he spends his time experiencing new cultures, traveling, learning new languages, playing golf, playing music, reading, and turning complete strangers into lifelong friends.
Where did the idea for Taikun come from?
I was running the marketing department for a retailer, and I found that the service providers for digital marketing services were generally pretty weak. Lots of what they offered wasn’t worth the money, and I knew I’d be able to deliver more.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with me answering emails on my commute to work, and I usually arrive to the office late around 10 or 10:30 and gets started with the priority tasks I set the night before. Every day I have 3 priorities I want to get to, and I block off time at the start of my day to get those finished. I’m usually finished by 2 or 2:30 when I grab lunch.
After lunch I take a 20 minute nap, no matter what. It doesn’t matter where I am working; I take my 20 minute nap. The second half of the day is filled with all the other stuff that needs to get finished: meetings, calls, miscellaneous lower-priority work, etc.
I do all of that until I head out of the office somewhere around 9 and then answer emails on my commute home. After work depends on if I’m going out, meeting clients for drinks, or whatever. Before starting my evening routine, however, I always make sure to plan my priority tasks for the next day. I’m usually asleep around 2.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have always been a great idea person but have always struggled with execution. I have too many “great” ideas, and I always tried to put too much on my plate, so I had to get into the habit of creating specific and detailed roadmaps to take something from ideation to completion. Once I have an idea that I want to complete, I spend as many as 5 to 10 hours fleshing out all of the steps necessary to get from ideation to completion and put that into Asana. Once the project is setup, I review it to see if things have been missed.
If I don’t have concrete next steps and know what I need to be doing, I can easily get lost in flights-of-fancy. With the plan solidified, I follow that plan as it’s laid out and, if necessary, make small tweaks as I’m going.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The digital nomadism. I have recently jumped on the bandwagon myself, and it has been exceptional. For those who are able, it is a life-changing experience. Living in another culture, learning a new language, being immersed in something completely new and foreign. It’s thrilling and rewarding and it opens up entirely new perspectives on life and business. I think the digital nomad community will be a global force and more and more governments will compete to attract nomads to their countries.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Journaling. I have been journaling every day for 4 years, and it is amazingly helpful. In addition to journaling every day, I start my day reading my journal entry from a year ago that day. This allows me to see where I was one year ago and identify patterns. Am I struggling with something this year that I was struggling with last year? What issues did I have last year that I’ve resolved this year? What great experiences did I forget I had over the past year? It’s extremely enlightening to read the entries from last year. It can really put into perspective how I’ve changed and areas that need more focus.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be ashamed of the adversity you’ve faced. Be proud that you’ve overcome it. I was dealt a really tough hand early in life with my father dying as a kid and growing up in an extremely unstable environment. There were times as a teenager where I was too poor to eat. I was always ashamed of these struggles and felt bad about them. I never gave myself credit for overcoming them. The obstacles you’ve overcome DO define you, but in a positive way.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Spend your money living today instead of saving to live someday. Your experiences today shape your future. They expand your perspective and make you a better person. I’m not saying live paycheck to paycheck or to waste your money on stuff, but if the choice is putting $1,000 in your bank account or taking a spur of the moment trip abroad to meet a friend for the weekend you should take the trip every time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Cold sales. It’s absolutely brutal and soul crushing. But it’s an amazing skill that has value in every facet of your life. Being able to take rejection is important. Being able to sell is vital. And there’s no harder sale than a cold one. There also aren’t many greater feelings than taking a complete stranger you contacted and turning them into a customer.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Networking. Networking can be a bit of a dirty word, but as the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” This is especially true in consulting. Getting out there and representing my company at networking groups, industry events, and even just meeting people at social events. You never know when you might find someone who can refer you business, or find someone who you might be able to refer business to in turn.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve never had a failure as an entrepreneur. Failure is a state of mind, not an outcome. I choose to view situations that had unexpected outcomes as opportunities to learn. I truly believe that you can learn something valuable from every experience.
For example, we hit a really rough patch in terms of closing deals in the last year. The pipeline of potential deals was never more full, but nothing was closing. And as the main salesperson at my agency, I took my foot off the gas, and we ran into cash flow issues. This taught me many valuable lessons like the importance of always adding more to your funnel even if it’s full because you never know when things will close. It taught me that we should add some degree of urgency to our contracts to ensure timely closing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Crutches haven’t changed since the days of Tiny Tim. And they suck. I’ve suffered tons of injuries playing sports and have probably spent at least a year of my life on crutches. The hard plastic handles bruise your hands and the under-arms are poorly padded. Ergonomic crutches with molded gel hand-grips and a well padded under-arms are something that should exist. And the market is huge.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My girlfriend came to visit me from New York here in Buenos Aires for two weeks, and we had dinner at one of the best steakhouses here in the city, which makes it one of the best in the world because no country does beef like Argentina.
We were sitting there, outside, on a beautiful evening as the sun is setting in what I consider the most beautiful city in the world, enjoying a spectacular meal together. Life is nothing more than a series of moments, and that dinner is a moment I will remember forever.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Asana, which task management software for teams. There is so much on my plate that I simply cannot remember it all. So I put everything in Asana and don’t have to remember any of it. We also use it internally so that our teams can track progress on projects and everyone is on the same page.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Dune.” It’s an amazing science fiction book. It has nothing to do with business or entrepreneurship, which is precisely the point. I think it’s important to read for pleasure and take your mind somewhere else. I find that my greatest business insights come when I’m not thinking about them.
What is your favorite quote?
Before my father died and knowing that he was going to die, he wrote me a letter in which he apologized for not being able to be there for me growing up and to impart some final advice he hoped would serve me well in life. In it he quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
• Be open about and proud of the obstacles you’ve overcome. They inspire others and speak to your character.
• Life is a series of experiences so don’t wait to live your life someday.
• Sales is a vital skill in business and in life. Learning how to sell will serve you well in all your endeavors.
• Make journaling a daily habit. It gives you deep insight into yourself and your life.