It’s OK to change your mind often, and a bit of ambiguity is OK.
Dan Curran is a seasoned marketing and advertising entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of PowerPost, a comprehensive content publishing accelerator for brand marketers. Founded in April 2016, PowerPost’s platform centralizes content to allow for streamlined collaboration, measurement, and publishing, with the mission of making brands publishing powerhouses. Dan divides his time between PowerPost’s two locations, St. Louis and Chicago. Before he founded PowerPost, Dan was a partner at Manifest Digital, where he led an award-winning advertising team. Dan and his team specialized in social media, UX, e-commerce, and PR.
Taking his digital marketing and brand management skills outside the office, Dan also participates in entrepreneurial and marketing organizations. He’s served as the St. Louis chapter president of both Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the American Advertising Federation’s Ad Club. Dan has also served on the leadership council for Business Forward, an organization in which business leaders work with Washington, D.C., to address economic recovery and job creation.
In 2013, Dan produced and directed the documentary “Saving St. Louis,” which was featured on PBS. This unique film had leading CEOs and gang members sit down to discuss urban decay, violence, and how these “alpha” personalities could join forces to improve the community. The film was narrated by Andre Norman, a former gang member and federal prisoner himself.
Where did the idea for PowerPost come from?
After working with many of the nation’s largest brands, I came to realize that an inordinate amount of each marketing budget is often misappropriated and that brands must shift their focus toward owned media and become media companies themselves.
I set out to build the first brand-as-publisher platform in order for brands to better control their destiny, drive engagement, and increase sales. Our rallying cry is “publish or perish.” Yes, brands will perish (or, at a minimum, become irrelevant) unless they quickly migrate toward a brand-as-publisher mentality.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
My daily routine is to ensure the vision and success metrics I have established are carried out. I believe my role is to remove obstacles (for my leadership team and staff) in order to meet and exceed such success metrics.
I have a simple four-part framework that I refer to daily: revenue growth, best-in-class talent, strategic partnerships, and clarity around brand and positioning. I take an agile approach to these four components and pivot when necessary. PowerPost literally reinvents itself every six months. The velocity of change at PowerPost is both exhilarating and transformative. It is impossible for me to work a 9-to-5 schedule. Our business model requires that I work seven days a week and put in anywhere from two to 20 hours each day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Evangelism, clarity of message, marketing analysis, intuition, and (surprisingly) making a lot of mistakes.
We have a major focus on advocating for brands to become media companies. PowerPost is the only platform that transforms brands into power publishers. Our evangelism is visceral, consistent, and loud.
We work diligently to remain clear with clients and avoid overengineering our platform and software. The PowerPost story is meant to be easily digestible: brand as publisher. Our clients appreciate our ability to avoid marketing lingo and deliver real solutions. Most great ideas are very simple — but executed very well.
PowerPost is constantly leveraging customer interviews, UX testing, and third-party research. Our iterative (sprint) workflow approach allows us to quickly identify trends and adjust our feature set.
Our success recipe also incorporates a significant amount of intuition. Brilliance can often manifest itself during philosophical team conversations or while enjoying some local craft beer.
But perhaps the biggest weapon in our arsenal is our high tolerance for making mistakes. We wholeheartedly believe in the “fail forward” approach to realizing success. Every once in a while, we hire new employees who find this approach very unsettling. They are quickly ex-employees.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
C-level executives are insisting that their marketing departments deliver bottom-line results. Vague KPIs and subjective brand analytics are “Mad Men”-era metrics and no longer valid. A CMO must be held accountable for real business metrics or face losing his job. Tools like PowerPost provide marketing executives the ammunition (sales leads, purchases, etc.) to prove marketing can be of value.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Questioning assumptions. One of my favorite quotes is “Just because you believe something is true does not make it so.” There is a disheartening herd mentality that permeates the marketing industry. Pushing my team to question assumptions has made our business much more productive as we identify opportunities others miss.
Second, I am very disciplined regarding 90-day goals. I use a formula that ensures I am both accountable and public with my responsibilities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Quickly fire toxic employees.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
It’s OK to change your mind often, and a bit of ambiguity is OK.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
A positive attitude affects the bottom line. Your daily optimism and enthusiasm are part of what your clients are buying.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I have an intense focus on constantly (and I mean constantly) networking with peers and leaders in my industry. My success is directly tied to the network that I continually nourish and engage. Often, I choose a random number — let’s say 50 — and commit to reaching out to that number of people within a week.
Generally speaking, the people who walk this world want to be of help, to assist their fellow man or woman. It is important that one knows a favor given should always be viewed as reciprocal — be it immediately or a decade later.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t pay proper attention to the “business of my business.” It’s a mortal sin to not devote significant time to the financial well-being of your organization. Because I had a less-than-desirable financial IQ, I suffered through many self-inflicted wounds early in my career.
I finally acknowledged my shortcomings and joined the most amazing organization: Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Its peer-to-peer fellowship approach to entrepreneurial growth was a game changer, teaching me to properly read a balance sheet or P&L statement and to properly forecast for both growth and setbacks.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Without hesitation, no matter the industry, you can somewhat easily become a publisher. You can easily become a media company and grow your audience, even if those people are not customers. This business model can very well create more goodwill (true brand equity) that will translate to increased company value and net worth.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Running shoes! I need my alone time, and exercising keeps the stress demons away.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
LEANSTACK: It allows my team and I to stay aligned. If someone goes off course regarding our business model, we refer to LEANSTACK.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“On Fire” by John O’Leary — a business leader-turned-author who speaks about a tragic accident that nearly killed him. After years of running away from this tragedy, he finally accepted who he was (the good and bad) and explains how that allowed him to really live a full life. Many of us are foolishly attempting to be “perfect.” This book will adjust your POV in a significant way.
What is your favorite quote?
Albert Einstein said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” No truer words have ever been said.
Tell us about one friend or acquaintance of yours who we should interview on IdeaMensch. Who are they, how do we get ahold of them, and what are they doing?
Don Breckenridge. He’s the founder of Hatchbuck, a fantastic marketing automation tool.