I make a conscious effort to always help others. I’ve found that the more willing I am to help others, the more willing others are to help me, which is good for my business.
John Hall is the CEO and co-founder of Influence & Co. Influence & Co. helps companies position key individuals as industry influencers and thought leaders. They focus on creating high-quality content, coming from their clients, that reaches their target audience online. His clients range from startups to fast-growing companies on the Inc. 500 to Fortune 500 companies.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After a few conversations with our investor Brent Beshore, my co-founder, Kelsey Meyer, and I identified a huge need for content creation and production for businesses. Brent had experienced some difficulties publishing content on his own; he had seen some great results, but it was challenging and time-consuming. With that in mind, Kelsey and I were able to develop a business model and content creation process that could really help entrepreneurs — and ourselves. We soon realized, though, that our model was just as valuable to larger companies looking to build trust and gain influence with its audiences as it was to start-ups and entrepreneurs.
When we started Influence & Co., I don’t think we had any idea our company would become one of the most promising and fastest growing content marketing agencies. Educating and empowering audiences through content really has really taken over the marketing industry, and when you add the amazing team we have at Influence & Co., that’s where you get such a successful venture.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I start my day in the most positive way by waking up and getting my daughter ready for day care. I’m happy spending time with her, and it puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Once she’s ready and on her way, I work out and catch up on email. (I know that sounds like a strange combo, but it’s a great way to get my energy up and knock out my email early in the day.) I’m most productive mid-morning after I’ve gotten that out of the way.
I usually work at the office from around 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then I head home to spend more time with my family. If I’m traveling for any large client or publication meetings or to deliver a keynote address, my schedule looks a little different, but my day-to-day looks like this.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My process is three-part: execute, test, and learn. If I’ve got an idea, I quickly assess the best route forward, and then I begin execution. I’ll test out different theories and methods of execution and ask my team for feedback. You should always be testing and asking for feedback. Lastly, you have to be willing to learn from the feedback you receive. No one has all the answers, and it’s critical to your success to accept constructive criticism — it’s how we get better. Learning from the feedback and incorporating it into the next test or next idea is how you develop it to its full potential.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited by the transition from “me” marketing to “you” marketing. In the past, marketing was very business-centric, all about promotion and selling your product or service. But with the rise of content marketing, we’re really seeing more of the informed customer. People want to learn and be engaged and build relationships with you and your business. They don’t want to feel like they’re always being sold to when they’re trying to make a decision. It’s a transformative period for a lot of businesses that are used to the “me” marketing strategy and for businesses that have already adopted content marketing to keep up with the trends.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I make a conscious effort to always help others. I’ve found that the more willing I am to help others, the more willing others are to help me, which is good for my business. Plus, helping others leads to the opportunity to meet new people, and that allows me to network and build new relationships that benefit Influence & Co.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never had a bad job. I’ve always like working, even as a kid selling cheese and sausage door-to-door or as a teenager at the video store. There’s something to be learned from every job — even the ones that aren’t so glamorous — and I’m happy to learn it.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would be sure to set clear expectations for every part of the business early on. It’s easy to get excited and just keep moving forward when you’re starting out, but it’s so important to take the time to ensure expectations for the company structure, organization, sales, staffing, etc. are crystal clear in the beginning.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Grade yourself. The only way you can get better is to be honest about your performance, and that includes your faults and shortcomings. I love grading myself and having the people I trust grade me, too. Establish grading periods, set goals for improvement during each period, and have someone help keep you accountable for getting better each time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
What helps me grow my business is the same as what helps me be more productive as an entrepreneur: my desire and willingness to help other people. Helping others is key — that means taking care of your partners, clients, brand advocates, etc.
I’m attracted to good people, and I like helping them. From giving honest advice or making a simple introduction to presenting them with solid business opportunities they may otherwise not have known about, I do what I can to help, and this typically results in more opportunities for my business in the long term.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest struggle was dealing with the downs. When something for my business didn’t turn out the way I had planned, I remember how easy it was to get down on myself. It’s hard to stay encouraged when it seems like nothing is going to work out for you. I’ve learned to let it go, and that was huge for me. I just decided that I’m going to do my best. That’s all I can do, and I’m going to feel good about it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is a better way to digitally, visually track your kids’ lives. I have a two-year-old daughter, and she’s growing so fast. I would love a site or app that could help me capture her life’s big — and small — moments. Facebook sort of touches this, but it’s too broad. I’d love to see a more specialized program that could store and organize keepsakes, photos, and videos to tell her story that I could look back on and share with her.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just bought my daughter the Disney Glitter Gliders set. She’s never loved a toy so much, and it gives my wife and me a nice break from running around the house.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
HubSpot: This is great software for anyone who believes in inbound marketing — which should be everyone. There’s no better web analytics service that focuses on content.
Mint: Personal finance is very important to me, and Mint is a great way to help me stay conscious of my buying decisions. It’s easy to use and very visual, which is great for people who get turned off by the dry numbers side of finance.
LinkedIn: I’ll admit it — I’m a huge LinkedIn fanboy. When it’s used effectively, it’s a really useful tool for keeping track of your contacts and staying on top of your network’s mind.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Truthfully, I don’t read many books. I spend a lot of time each day reading Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, and other industry news sources, and they keep me up-to-date on the trends that most directly and immediately affect my business.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My friend and co-founder Kelsey Meyer has greatly influenced my thinking. Other interesting industry leaders I follow include: Michael Brenner of Newscred, Shane Snow of Contently, Patrick Ambron of BrandYourself, Brittany Hodak of ZinePak, Bryan Kramer of PureMatter, Ryan Buckley of Scripted, Rohit Bhargava of the Influential Marketing Group, Dan Schawbel, and William Arruda.