Have a strong team of people better than you in their area of expertise.
Robert brings over 15 years of experience in the health industry, having sold his last consumer products company to a publicly traded pharma company. An industry veteran of the digital marketing business, Robert has developed direct-to-consumer sales and marketing campaigns that have generated millions per month in sales. His ability to build an efficient organization using technology to scale rapidly has contributed greatly to his success. Robert earned his B.A. in health sciences from Queens University, Ontario. Robert also brings a unique background in professional sports having previously been a 3-time World Martial Arts Champion and still holds a world record.
Where did the idea for ConversionPoint Technologies come from?
At ConversionPoint Technologies we are focused on helping brands and agencies sell more online, drive down costs of customer acquisition and boost lifetime value. How we got here is an interesting story. In a nutshell, we’ve been there and feel the pain of e-Commerce marketers everywhere. The ConversionPoint story began as a necessity for our own direct to consumer marketing efforts. What we needed simply did not exist. We were tired of piecing together platforms that didn’t communicate or learn. As our technology stack progressed in areas like media optimization, CRM and fulfillment, we saw a way to integrate and acquire technologies that all focused on getting customers to the “conversion point” in e-Commerce. Hence our name.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up and have a cup of coffee. That is a must. I try and organize my days into clusters. For example, in the morning I’ll dedicate a couple of hours to emails and phone calls. In the late morning I’ll start meetings. I really make an effort to be efficient with my time because with three operating entities we have a lot to cover most days. I always make eating a priority, it helps keep me focused and fueled throughout the day. I also get some physical activity in every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I talk to people about them. I’ve surrounded myself with people I admire in business (successful CEOs and industry veterans) and talk through them with a trusted group of people. Then we operationalize the idea. That is my sweet spot. I can take an idea from concept to actuality with my teams.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The most interesting aspect of ecommerce for the next 12 to 18-months and really excites me is the continued evolution of AI/Machine learning. What machine learning has done for e-Commerce is pretty amazing. In our own platform we use it for the media optimization process. In real-time companies can now see the different combinations of image/copy/offering and make data-driven decisions that used to be just guess work. As we see AI/machine learning evolve there will be even more opportunities to see it integrated into e-Commerce and really help level the playing field between smaller and larger e-Commerce producers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Hire slow, fire fast. As a CEO, you know when someone needs to be fired. It is never a pleasant decision but sometimes it is necessary. In the past I had an employee who just wasn’t performing. We had gone through all the coachable techniques and it was evident that nothing was improving. I still waited because, well, nobody wants to fire someone. I eventually had to face the reality that in a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment there is no room for poor performance. This is a lesson I’ve carried with me. Anytime I have delayed firing someone (or helping a manager fire someone) it has never improved the outcome.
What advice would you give your younger self?
“It is going to take way longer than you think.” Launching my first startup when I was 20, I figured I would be retired when I was 25 based on my projections. I had the idea that things would move as fast as I work or as fast as I wanted them to, and man was I wrong. Everything you work on is going to take way longer than you think and much longer than you want, but if you stay focused you will eventually reach your goals.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
That eating vegan is good for you.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When creating pro forma projections (or really building your business case) Double your expenses and cut your revenue in half. Think “Under promise and over deliver.” Keen entrepreneurs will always be over optimistic on revenue and lenient on costs. I have made that mistake many times and when I look back on my previous companies, initial projections are always off. I have kept this in mind for my last few ventures and when we first started ConversionPoint and I’m very proud to say that we actually BEAT our projections! We beat our year 1 revenue projections by 12% and are on track to beat year 2 by the same margin. Our banking partners say we are the first and only company they have ever seen that actually beat their projections. It’s now a tried and true strategy for me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I have a unique background being a former professional UFC fighter. I find business to be very similar to a UFC fight, for a few reasons. A UFC fight is all about preparation, training, good coaches and handling pain. Business, especially startups, are the same thing! An entrepreneur must follow similar tenants if they want to be successful in running a business. You must be prepared, you must have the right skills, you need great advisors and mentors and you must be resilient. This leads me to my last point……I stopped listening to the naysayers. This doesn’t mean I don’t listen to wise business council. However, there can be very bad days when everything you’ve planned for seems to blow up and everyone is telling you you’re your idea won’t work. Never ever give up. I wish someone had told me to cut out the noise. Luckily for me, I had my martial arts background to fall back on. If you don’t have the tenacity to deal with pain, struggle and down cycles you should keep your day job. I’ve learned to be tough, agile and durable.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A startup a few years ago ran out of cash, which can happen even if you are ‘profitable’. I was faced with a need for immediate recalibration and some hard decisions had to be made. We overcame it by cutting costs and focusing on collecting receivables, which shifted our business model for the better in the long term.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A technology that would somehow verify the lifecycle of someone buying a shippable good online. The software would track each touchpoint from the purchase, ID verification through product delivery. This would cut down on ‘friendly fraud’ whereby people buy products online, receive them, then do a ‘chargeback’ on their credit card, claiming they never received the product.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just spent (over) $100 on products to make bulletproof coffee in the office. It has powerful and positive effects on my performance in the office and I wanted to share with my employees!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use Dapulse which is a project management tool. It has become integral to keeping all the plates spinning.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Scaling Up” by Harnish. We knew we were going to grow fast once we started acquiring companies. Scale is of critical importance to most entrepreneur’s business strategy. Doing it well can make a company. Doing it wrong or even inefficiently could break you. Following some of the strategies from Scaling Up has really help keep us focused when things are moving faster than we expect.
What is your favorite quote?
There is a quote in The Book of Five Rings, “To know ten thousand things, know one thing well,” that has kept me focused on knowing what the end goal is and knowing what I am good at (operations) and surrounding myself with those that truly know a thousand things I cannot. As a CEO I can’t take every problem on. But if I know my strategy is solid, the rest will fall in place.
• Approach business from an operations filter for success
• Have a strong team of people better than you in their area of expertise
• Coffee is life. Food is fuel.
• Mistakes are ok if you learn from them
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.