A couple of weeks ago, Hollis Guerra reached out and said “Nadine, you have to meet Kim Perell.” She went on to share how impressive Kim was and then, very enthusiastically said “she’s on a mission to help everyone succeed by sharing her tips on how she went from broke to multimillionaire”. I was instantly intrigued and wow, what a journey. She was broke at age 19, and flash forward to now, she just sold her last company for $235MM. Kim doesn’t need to work another day in her life, but she’s an extremely active CEO, investor, author and coach. Her energy is contagious and her generosity only surpassed by her passion to pay it forward. Please meet Kim and take full advantage of her tips for success as you think about what 2019 looks like for you.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I’m the CEO of Amobee, a leading independent advertising technology platform, overseeing 1,000 employees across 25 global offices. It’s a historic time in tech and advertising and Amobee provides advertising solutions for the converging world of TV & digital.
I’m also very passionate about supporting entrepreneurs and I am an early stage investor in more than 70 start-ups. Earlier this year, I published my first book with McGraw Hill, The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success. The book provides a blueprint for people to achieve success in business and life through mastering execution.
How did you get to where you are today? What pivotal moments did you face along the way?
“I was laid off and broke. I was absolutely devastated. From there, I decided to make a bet on myself.”
In 1999, I landed my dream job working for a booming internet startup. The company raised over $120 million in funding, then the market took a sharp turn, the company went bankrupt and I was laid off and broke. I was absolutely devastated.
From there, I decided to make a bet on myself as I really believed in the opportunity that existed in the internet. I called my 80-year-old grandmother for a $10,000 loan and I started my first digital marketing company from my kitchen table. I self-funded the business and maintained a relentless focus on the financials, keeping expenses as low as possible. The company grew to over $100 million in annual revenue and I sold it in 2008. I went from being broke at 23, a multimillionaire by the time I was 30 and selling my last company for $235 million in 2014.
Looking back, I know that there was that one skill that drove my success more than anything else – and that was my ability to execute. The misconception about success is that it’s just about IQ or hard work, but it’s not. We all know really smart people and really hard-working people who ultimately are not successful. Success is all about execution.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
I think the opportunity has never been greater for women and we are in a historic and transformative time. The market is advocating bringing more women in leadership positions and the demand for diversity is at the forefront of business. Now is a great time to take advantage of this demand. As a female entrepreneur, CEO and investor with nearly two decades in the tech sector, I have had the pleasure to work alongside the many smart, successful female innovators doing amazing work in the industry and I believe this is truly our time.
“Remember, if you don’t ASK, you won’t GET.”
Remember, if you don’t ASK, you won’t GET. It has been engrained in our society to avoid rejection but how do you know if you don’t try. Ask for the promotion, ask for the opportunity, and ask to take on that extra project. The worst thing that could happen is you get turned down. But in my experience, asking will open up more doors and opportunities for you then waiting for someone to approach you. Have confidence in yourself and go after what you want – the results will come.
What solutions or advice can you share?
It’s important to have a hard-work mentality and continue to deliver results; your reputation is your resume. Understand that you will have to make sacrifices along the way and what you are willing to put in is what you’re going to get out; nothing comes easy. In my book, I highlight five traits that are critical to execution success: Vision, Passion, Action, Resilience and Relationships. These five traits are interdependent, not independent and best viewed as equal parts of a circle with the point in the middle being execution at the highest level.
- VISION: First, you need a vision, your north star. It’s about having a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Without a clear vision, you don’t know what goals to set or what actions to take. By taking charge of your vision, being exactingly clear about what you want, and following your North Star, you are setting yourself up for a life of greater success and fulfillment.
- PASSION: You must be passionate about it; you must be willing to sacrifice and suffer for it. Simply put, passion is not just about the things you love but about those things that you would happily suffer and sacrifice for. Therefore, mastering Passion in execution is about maintaining the emotional connection to your vision and goals. Passion is what keeps you working towards achieving your vision even during times of great challenge or enormous obstacles.
- ACTION: Action is about taking that first step and then the next one. Often the first step is the most challenging, but you must take it, and then the next ones. Often, we can hesitate or get stuck in analysis paralysis. You must commit to taking the first action, no matter how small. Know every time you act, you get one step closer to your goals.
- RESILIENCE: Develop resilience to deal with obstacles, change, and uncertainty. Resilience is about dealing with setbacks in constructive and creative ways and using them as learning opportunities. It’s important to know when you need to change your actions and when to continue despite the challenges that lie ahead. To successfully execute, you need to fail forward.
- RELATIONSHIPS: Having the right people in your life. Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to successful execution. It’s the cornerstone to happiness. The most significant element in any person’s life is the people. If you change nothing else in your life than the people you spend your time with, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold.
Who helped you in your journey and what advice did they give you that really shaped your thinking?
My greatest mentors have been my parents. They are both entrepreneurs and I was fortunate to be exposed to the challenges of running businesses through them at an early age. My dad was an engineer, who became a real estate entrepreneur, and my mom’s work revolved around company values — to help companies put people before profit. She taught me about how company values and culture are an important part of business success.
My dinner table conversations growing up were not about sports or school. It was more, “Here’s the business problem we’re trying to solve,” and then we’d have a family discussion about it. There’s a lot of hard-work DNA in our family – everything had to be earned in my family. My dad would always say an 8-hour work day was only a half day. I’m very grateful to have had my parents and many other mentors throughout my life. Nobody achieves anything alone. Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to success: it’s the cornerstone to happiness.
What one thing would you have done differently early in your career if you had the right bit of advice?
Whatever your dream is, dream it bigger and start now. When I started my first internet company at the age of 23, all I needed was a computer, an internet account, great relationships and confidence in myself. I started in the infancy of the internet. The worst risk I could have had at 23 was I needed to get another job, but even so I was very cautious. Caution is good to a point, but you shouldn’t let it stop you from swinging for the fences. When I sold my company five years later for $30 million, I didn’t think it would grow beyond $50 million in revenue. It grew to $150 million a few years thereafter. I couldn’t see that potential myself. My limit was set by my own beliefs.
“I couldn’t see that potential myself. My limit was set by my own beliefs. ”
Final tips to share?
Relationships are key to success in life, and you should focus on surrounding yourself with positive, inspiring people. Ask yourself: Do you have the right people in your life? Are they supporting you and challenging you to grow and learn? If you have relationships that constantly tell you why you can’t achieve your dreams, it’s very hard to be successful.
And again, I cannot stress how important taking that first step is towards achieving your goal. Know every time you act, no matter how small, you get one step closer to making your vision and idea reality. Just start. This could be reaching out to a colleague or mentor for coffee and advice, taking a class on how to start, or registering a domain for your new company. No matter how small, take an action.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I would be doing exactly what I do today. I love my job as a CEO and working with such a talented team in a dynamic industry. My passion is people. I love helping others achieve success, which is why I became an angel investor and why I wrote a book to share my story and give others a blueprint to success. I just wish I had more time!
“Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to success: it’s the cornerstone to happiness.”