Anna David is the New York Times bestselling author of two novels and six non-fiction books. She’s been published in the New York Times, Time, LA Times, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Vice, Cosmo, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Salon, among many others, written about in Forbes, Martha Stewart Living, Entrepreneur, Allure, and Women’s Health and has appeared repeatedly on Today, The Talk, Good Morning America, and numerous other programs. She’s been a featured speaker at three different TedX events and her company, Legacy Launch Pad, writes and publishes books for thought leaders. Legacy Launch Pad recently re-launched David’s first book, Party Girl, which is being developed into a movie by an Oscar-winning producing team.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Anna David: I come from the traditional publishing world, having written six books published by HarperCollins and one by Simon & Schuster. I was a freelance writer for magazines like Details, Cosmo, and Playboy and I was also an on-air TV person, speaking about everything from celebrity lifestyle to addiction and recovery to relationships on shows like Today, The Talk, and Good Morning America. But when the traditional publishing world fell apart—around 2010—and the TV appearances went from paid to promotional (code for not paid), I realized I needed another plan.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Anna David: I believe, like with anything, you are born with a genetic predisposition toward it but if you have great modeling—say, parents who are entrepreneurs—that’s going to put you miles ahead. I came at it all backward; I always say I’m the inverse of the lawyer who had a midlife crisis and realized he wanted to be a writer: I thought there was something noble about being an artist and something tacky about being an entrepreneur. But in general, I would say people are born entrepreneurs and if you’re unemployable and highly motivated, you probably are perfect for it.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Anna David: I would say that I’m tenacious and determined. I am genuinely excited by coming up with new offers and new ways to help serve clients. I’m also committed to having fun. Luckily, I find work fun.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Anna David: My company writes and publishes books for six, seven, and eight-figure entrepreneurs. We started very bare-bones—someone came to me and wanted me to write his book and when I said no, he asked if I could get someone else to write it and then edit it. He was so insistent that I agreed and after that, I helped him publish it. The company he hired did a horrific cover so I told him I could find someone who could do a better one. And that was sort of the gateway…suddenly I became a publisher but all we offered was Amazon publishing. In the three years since we’ve come up with dozens of other offers—we now not only write, edit, copy edit, proofread, layout, and do the cover design but we launch books on 40,000 outlets, get clients press, produce their audiobooks, throw them book premieres, convert their books into TED talks and every other thing you can think of that would help a thought leader leave a legacy with a book.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Anna David: My best advice is not to assume you’re going to make money until you have proof that people want what you’re offering. And spend as little money as possible until you’re making money. Maybe I’ll change my tune one day but I’m honestly flummoxed by people who raise money for businesses that don’t require capital. They don’t seem to realize they’re starting IN THE HOLE. My first business was a website that I started for literally $500 and then sold for six figures within a few months. For Legacy LaunchPad, I didn’t spend a penny until I had money coming in.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Anna David: Absolutely. I was way too trusting. I thought contracts weren’t all that necessary and I trusted my team wholeheartedly. This completely came back to bite me when I paid one of my team members in advance for books she was going to write for my clients the following year. She then missed every deadline and when I said I needed her to turn the books in, she accused me of stealing her IP! It got so ugly but I ended up getting back the money I’d paid her and some. Still, it taught me that you don’t know who you can trust. I’d known her for over a decade and would have NEVER thought she’d end up behaving the way she did.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Anna David: Find a mentor and help them. I think I was un mentor-able for a long time because I thought someone more successful than me would just show up and start hooking me up. That’s not how it works! And now I’m on the other side because occasionally people will reach out to me and say, “Hey, will you be my mentor?” And not to sound like a horrible person but I have a list of 99 things to do every day so helping a stranger probably won’t be added as the 100th. And yet I’ve helped dozens and dozens of people over the years, none of whom approached me and asked me to be my mentor. What they did is they got my attention. Maybe they emailed me or posted about me or joined my membership group or wrote a review for one of my books or podcast. I appreciated it and we began a relationship from there. So I would have said find a mentor, help them and learn everything you can from them. You’ll be amazed at how much they then want to help you.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Anna David: I recently got some advice about creating a very long sales video for the company website that was meant to dissuade people who couldn’t afford our services from setting a call with me and encourage our ideal clients to set the call. But it seemed to completely backfire: when I sent clients I knew were perfect for us the video, they never set calls, while a whole bunch of people who just wanted introductions to Hollywood producers or editing or nothing we offer a la carte, scheduled calls. The person who suggested it is brilliant and that sort of video had worked well for him. But the lesson other people can learn is: just because something worked for another entrepreneur doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Anna David: This sounds terrible but COVID has been great for my business because I think it caused a lot of people to want to focus on marketing in ways they hadn’t before and others to realize life is short so they may as well get going on the book they’ve always wanted to publish. But that’s because my clients aren’t people whose income was impacted much by COVID. So my sort of counterintuitive advice is: don’t assume that because you’re selling something inexpensive, your business is crisis or recession-proof. It turned out that selling luxury, high-end items was better during COVID because, for better or worse, many of the wealthiest people weren’t impacted financially by these sorts of crises.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Anna David: A common myth about entrepreneurship is that we always know what we’re doing. Half of building my company has been making things up as I go. I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs that most of building a business is thinking on your feet and a whole lot is faking it until you make it.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Anna David: You have to be able to be tenacious and keep iterating until you come up with an actual business that sells something people want. I think the mistake a lot of people make today is they think coming up with a name and starting an Instagram account is the way to start a “brand.” And it may be but that doesn’t mean that brand is going to make you any money. It sounds obvious but the only way to make money is to provide an expensive service or product that a handful of people will pay for or an inexpensive service or product a lot of people will pay for. I think the former is easier.
It’s also a cliché but you have to be a hard worker. I was recently talking to someone who wanted help building her business but had rules like “you can’t contact me on the weekends” and “I’ll do this but I won’t do that.” I told her that you can’t have both; you DO have to work hard and do things you don’t want to to get help from other people to build a business. And you NEED help from other people to build a business.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Anna David: Some fantastic books have helped me immensely in building my business—Who Not How by Ben Hardy and Dan Sullivan, Influence by Robert Cialdini, and anything by Russell Brunson, are the first that come to mind. (My company has also published a slew of business books but I’m purposely not including those on this list!) There are also so many great podcasts, like John Corcoran’s Rise 25, Michael O’Neal’s Solopreneur, and Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy. I don’t know about movies but Dean Jackson always says “How It’s Made” is the best TV show about business.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Anna David: I would host TV shows. I’ve hosted a few and appeared on a lot more and I find that pretty funny. Even some of the bad shows I did (and I hosted a show for Playboy TV, so there have been some bad ones!) were fun.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Anna David: Arianna Huffington. She showed us that you could break away from being a “wife of” and start a massive business. Then she showed us that we can slow down. I think what she’s done for women is up there with Gloria Steinem and other leaders that have fought for women’s rights.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Anna David for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Anna David or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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