Stuart Draper

Stuart Draper is the co-author of Digital Marketing Essentials, the bestselling text in higher education of its kind. He has experience doing internet marketing for companies that range from mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies. He successfully bootstrapped (acquired December 2015), and is now working on, a digital courseware company that provides the world’s #1 digital marketing simulation, the world’s first social media marketing simulation, and a variety of other texts, videos and projects. In 2018, Stukent became the #268 fastest growing company in the US, and was featured in Inc. Magazine on the Inc. 500 list.

Stuart’s work has taken him all over the globe. He has been to Romania, Mexico, China, Puerto Rico, Germany, and India to speak to audiences ranging from ten to north of 1,500 people about entrepreneurship and digital marketing that will be used by over 100,000 students this year.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

I taught as an adjunct at Brigham Young University – Idaho, and I had that, “There has got to be a better way,” moment. I noticed there was a disconnect between what schools were teaching and what employers needed.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is a morning routine of check phone, then meditation and reading, usually in the bathroom. Some of my best inspiration comes when I am in the bathroom. Then a workout. I listen to audio books while I workout. I get to the office at 8ish. Usually, no meetings till 9 so that is when I prep for meetings and catch up on email and Slack.

Then meetings or business trips usually take up my day. Those meetings could be interviewing, recruiting, lunch with a teammate that needs extra time and attention, or strategizing sales and marketing.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I act, and I commit others to act. I don’t let myself dwell too long on the possible barriers. I know that when I reach them, I can find a way around.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Small Private Online Courses or SPOCs. I love the idea of paying only for the parts of an education that you need. I think it is a major disruptor.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Inbox Zero. I use my email like a to-do list. I try to only open an email once and either respond or archive. I have also set up my email so that I can choose to send and auto-archive. It is an awesome optional feature in Gmail.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Double down on what works! It seems so obvious, but I didn’t keep doing what worked. For example, I picked up three long term clients at my first dental conference where I exhibited. I did Google ads for dentists. I made $10k+ over the life of those customers, and I only spent about $1k on the conference. I should have exhibited at every state dental conference there was with a return like that. I stopped because in the short run it didn’t feel like a great return.

I would also tell myself to think bigger and hire more sales guys that you pay for performance. As you win, they win.

Oh, and one more, don’t give up equity so easily.
Oh, and have an enforceable non-compete with your partner! …That last one is a story for another day. LOL

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Traditional universities and higher education are NOT dying. Stukent is their Savior.

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

I set a company revenue goal for the year. I share it with everyone in the company, and then a few times a month l update the company on where we are tracking toward our goal.

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

Share the vision! Every new employee has two meetings with me.

One is the Under Armour speech. Basically, I share the story of their humble beginnings followed by their success, and then I tell them how they are going to help Stukent become to Pearson and McGraw-Hill what Under Armour is to Nike and Adidas.

The other speech is the one where we burn the handbook. I take time to review the handbook so they know what my expectations are for them as a team member, and then I tell them that I understand there are exceptions to rules and I want them to use their judgement and do what is best for the business. Then we literally burn the little handbook to symbolize that we aren’t a company so rigid we have to follow the letter of the law.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I didn’t have a Non-disclosure, Non-compete agreement with my partner. He was offered a higher salary and took it. He also took 33% of my clientele and revenue with him. I had no legal repercussion. Rather than use his moral compass and his ethics, he used my lack of legal recourse and money to make his decision for him. I went to work selling and eventually surpassing the revenues he had taken with him, and I sold that business for 3x what it was worth when that partner left me.

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

A pill that makes your farts smell good. You laugh, but I swear one of these days I am going to partner with the right gastro specialist and make it happen.
NOTE: Ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is execution, not ideas.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Night skiing in Idaho is cheap. I took my kids night skiing a couple weeks back for $87 and then bought gas station treats on the way home. Memory made. Behind my beautiful wife, my kids are VIP status.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Google Assistant. I say “Okay Google” and set reminders in my phone all the time. A bonus tip is the Bluetooth in my truck. I make calls and return calls while I drive.

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

Only one?!

I’m religious, so for me, the book that has had the greatest impact on me is The Book of Mormon. It has helped me in every aspect of my life, both personal and professional.

But, I’m guessing you want a business book.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel because it helps you see the bigger picture of what is possible.

Second would be Shoe Dog. It is the story of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Stories of entrepreneurs inspire, and we can learn a lot from them.

What is your favorite quote?

So many come to mind…

“To be a great Champion, you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.”
– Muhammad Ali

Key Learnings:

  • Ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is execution, not ideas.
  • Double down on your campaigns and sales efforts that are working, even if the ROI will take years.
  • A pill that makes your farts smell good will make someone a billionaire.
  • Make sure your company knows and shares the vision.
  • Burn the handbook and just trust your employees.


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