Meet FanFinder’s CEO and Co-Founder, Alec Dobbie. With over 20 years of experience as a developer, Alec started up performance marketing and
consumer intelligence company FanFinders back in 2013, when he set out with his co-founders to evolve marketing to parents. FanFinders now has almost 6 million parents signed up on its self-coded
consumer platform, Your Baby Club, and operates on two continents.
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Table of Contents
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Alec Dobbie: We’re moving closer to launching the next version of our technology platform, so our real focus is on utilizing that in clever ways in our current market and beyond. But, as always, we want to grow in a sustainable manner. It’s how quickly can we develop something that is repeatable, manageable, and scalable. We don’t want to put our time into one-off events, we want to create things that can be built upon, that we can evolve or learn from. Everything you build provides the foundations for the next phase, so it’s creating those moments, those great bits of technology like hyper-personalization and then strategizing around them.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Alec Dobbie: For us, the big challenge in the early days was attracting both users and brands to our platform, because each stream directly helps the other. I think there are hard times in any business where it’s easy to think: Is this worth it? Would I be better going back to my previous career? There are times when you think it might be easier doing just one thing instead of many. Running a business and being a CEO means wearing a lot of hats even on the best of days. Would I give it up and go back? Not a chance. That wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun. You’re helping to shape the future, you’re having lots of impact, your field of influence goes way beyond just yourself and it’s inspiring. If you’re a driven person, then I don’t think you can go back.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Alec Dobbie: When you’re an entrepreneur, there are lots of people that want you to say yes to things. They will try to convince you to do ‘this’ or take ‘that’ opportunity. These people can be both within the business or external. It’s really important, especially in the early days, to be able to say ‘no’, because there usually isn’t enough time or resources available. If there already isn’t enough time to meet your core challenges, there definitely isn’t going to be some to do something else. This changes as the business grows, but for the first few years, you should concentrate on doing one thing really well. Stop trying to do 15, because it’s not going to work.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Alec Dobbie: Resilience is the ability to weather a storm and to come up with novel solutions to the problems you’re facing. Still being there tomorrow is sometimes the target for a business, especially during circumstances like the pandemic. I also think there are multiple levels, in that the company must be as resilient as possible from the decisions you make – like not overstocking, overburdening yourself, signing long contracts, renting space that you don’t use, etc., but your team needs to be resilient too. A role in a startup is not going to be the same as one where there are thousands of staff. It will be interesting and dynamic, but much more is demanded of you.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Alec Dobbie: In five years, the technology that we have created is being utilized not just by ourselves but for others. We’ve become a more tech-focused business, where we have other brands using us as a hub, both as a media business where our platforms are used cooperatively, but also as an enterprise SaaS player because our technology itself is ace.
Delegating is part of being a great leader, but what have you found helpful to get your managers to become valiant leaders as well?
Alec Dobbie: Delegation is a learned skill and I don’t think it comes naturally to everyone. But we’ve found it’s far easier if you hire well. It sounds obvious, but if you hire with delegation in mind and look for people that can lead or go off and do things independently, it’s going to help – even in a small way. You want people that don’t need micromanaging and that you can trust. We delegate a lot and that goes along with allowing our people to make their own choices. If you hire skilled, specialist talent and allow those people to materially alter the area they’re working within, they make a far bigger impact and across the business, everyone is much happier to share tasks.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Alec Dobbie: Your branding needs to be as individual as your company. I suspect that the demands vary if you’re in a field like corporate finance compared to something like advertising, but I like to stand out a bit and I think that’s beneficial. There is a message about authenticity here too. Don’t pretend to Kanye West or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson if you’re a mild-mannered accountant. Likewise, startup founders shouldn’t feel the need to try and be exactly like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. Be honest and be yourself.
How would you define “leadership”?
Alec Dobbie: The ability to motivate others to do things well.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Alec Dobbie: There will always be an excuse to not start a business, but go and do it. Don’t wait for a perfect opportunity to do it, make it happen. Work hard at something and use pre-set goals. You need a way to determine what ‘good’ or ‘terrible’ means for your business venture; make it numeric. Whether that’s ‘X’ number of users or a certain amount of revenue – these help you determine whether you’re on the correct path or if you need to pivot.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Alec Dobbie: We have a motto and I think it works across the board: Hire smart people and let them get their shi*t done.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alec Dobbie for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alec Dobbie or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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