David Zheng – Co-founder and CEO of Klout Fire

[quote style=”boxed”]Short-term sacrifices for reaching long-term goals always trump short-term gains at the expense of your long-term goals. And most choices boil down, in some way, to these two options.[/quote]

David Zheng is the co-founder and CEO of Klout Fire, a digital marketing agency that helps brands drive revenue by acquiring customers and establishing brand awareness through inbound marketing strategies. The company combines optimization techniques to build an engaged audience and create valuable content. David strives to keep Klout Fire’s marketing strategy ahead of the industry curve to drive more growth for Klout Fire clients.

When he’s not helping companies develop growth strategies, he’s moving crowds with his mixes in SoCal’s electronic dance scene.

Where did the idea for Klout Fire come from?

The idea of Klout Fire came from my experience as both an employee of digital marketing agencies and a client. I noticed that great service and real results aren’t actually that common in the digital marketing space, so I started Klout Fire to deliver both.

What is your business model?

Our business model is a monthly, retention-based service, in which we provide strategy and execution on digital inbound marketing strategies, leveraging the resources available to clients to generate sustainable, relevant traffic that converts into sales.

What does your typical day look like?

By 6:30 a.m., I wake up and get ready for the day. Between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., I’m at my most productive. That’s when I get a lot of work done. From 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., I’m dealing with meetings, emails, calls, chats, and team training. I fit in more work or networking until about 8 p.m. I call the hours between 8 and 10 p.m. “my” time, when I can do whatever I want. Normally, I read. After that, I pass out.

How do you bring ideas to life?

This is how I do it:
Step 1: I brainstorm and research to refine the idea.
Step 2: I plan (taking pivoting into consideration for flexibility).
Step 3: I consult with people who have past experience executing a similar idea.
Step 4: I test the idea on a small scale, with small monetary and time investments.
**Steps 5 and 6 happen only if step 4 is successful:
Step 5: I refine the execution on a bigger scale with more resources.
Step 6: I adapt and pivot if necessary.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

A trend I see that really excites me is that all services and products are shifting to personalization (medical, gifts, services, etc.). That equals higher quality and more creativity and individuality.

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

I don’t really view my past jobs as necessarily bad. But if I had to choose, I would say it was my first job when I was 18. I was a bag boy. It was the worst because I had the closing shift, which meant I had to clean the room where they butchered meat. That experience taught me the meaning of hard work. I appreciated my parents’ support much more afterward.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I am answering this question with obvious hindsight bias! If I started again, I’d stay a computer science major in college. I would launch my agency much earlier. I would basically use my time more wisely.

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

Short-term sacrifices for reaching long-term goals always trump short-term gains at the expense of your long-term goals. And most choices boil down, in some way, to these two options.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Seek mentorship. Learn from successful entrepreneurs; you will make fewer mistakes and become wiser more quickly. Most importantly, you’ll learn things you wouldn’t learn otherwise.

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

I’d love to see an app that allows me to see everyone in the place who’s networking. It’s such a hassle to remember to bring my business cards every time. In addition, it’s inconvenient because they take up room in my pocket along with my keys, wallet, and phone — and other people’s business cards. If someone can solve this problem, I would 100 percent support him or her.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’m going to tailor this answer to the United States, because I want to answer the question based on actual experience, instead of assumptions (since I haven’t personally experienced or explored the world).

I would change the education system in the United States. Many majors are becoming obsolete, and the educational system isn’t “pivoting” with the market change. This is why there are many people with degrees who are jobless. Having skills is more in demand; therefore, they’re more important than degrees, but the mass perception doesn’t support this, so many people are still chasing degrees. In my opinion, this is an issue of perception. To solve this problem, I would promote this idea and turn it into a mainstream view, forcing the educational system to adapt.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I used to be really good at soccer.

What are your three favorite online tools, software, or resources and what do you love about them?

1. Asana: It helps me organize and manage my team.
2. Gmail: Most of us take this one for granted. Gmail makes communication so convenient.
3. Stride CRM: It’s an extremely simple CRM that helps me organize and manage my leads and sales process. If you run a startup, I highly recommend this.

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

I’d recommend “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. It teaches applicable strategies that cross over to business and entrepreneurship. It’s a book based on experience.

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

Neil Patel: Reading his blog has inspired me and, at the same time, provided me with applicable tips.
Site: quicksprout.com, kissmetrics.com, crazyegg.com
Twitter: @neilpatel

Rand Fishkin: Rand’s blog and his “Whiteboard Fridays” have been key in helping me stay up-to-date on digital marketing.
Site: moz.com
Twitter: @randfish

AJ Kumar: AJ has personally helped me and guided my mentality for personal and entrepreneurial growth.
Site: persuasive.net, kimberlysnyder.net
Twitter: @ajkumar

What did you have for breakfast?

I had a Subway turkey sandwich.


Twitter: @nansida
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/davidnzheng