Kean Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 100+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $30M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 10 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.
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Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Kean Graham: I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.
Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life-changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:
I will work and travel when I want, where I want. I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. Seven months later I started the digital business called MonetizeMore which now offers this autonomous lifestyle to every member of our team.
Since then, the company has grown to $30M in revenues that is a Google Certified Partner with 200+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Kean Graham: Below are the top 3 mistakes startups make:
- Not Tracking Financials: Many founders make this mistake early on. As a result, they don’t know their cash flow position, monthly net income and total runway. This causes them to make bad decisions because they don’t have the proper numbers.
- Vanity Purchases: Startups tend to leak cash with vanity purchases and initiatives. With success, founders tend to splurge on things that make them look good that are not necessarily the best for the company. Some examples of these vanity purchases are expensive offices, flashy cars, famous PR firms, or lavish company parties.
- No Partner Agreement: Many founders assume the partnership will go great because things are good now. Partnerships tend to hit periods of turmoil and agreements are necessary to resolve disagreements. Without a proper contract, disagreements tend to spiral and sometimes take down the whole company.
Overall, I’d recommend entrepreneurs to track their financials, be frugal with expenses, and have a partnership agreement if you have multiple Founders.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Kean Graham: My favorite podcast is definitely My First Million. Sam and Shaan do a great job presenting new business ideas but most of all, uncovering useful takeaways that separate successful entrepreneurs from the rest.
They have presented interesting opportunities that have surfaced during the pandemic. Listening to these two thought leaders gives me additional energy to work on my business and has provided many useful takeaways that I use within MonetizeMore and to be a better leader.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Kean Graham: Below are the three things that separate MonetizeMore from our competitors:
- We enable ad inventory ownership: Our tech was architected to integrate with any publisher to enable them to use their owned ad server and ad network accounts. Our competitors force publishers to use their centralized ad server and ad network accounts which lack control and transparency.
- PubGuru compliments in-house ad op teams: Our tech was architected to complement in-house ad op teams rather than replace them like what our competitors strive to do. We have created an unbundled suite of ad tech tools to enhance the effectiveness of each ad op team.
- 100% Remote: Our competitors are typically VC-invested businesses that are run from offices. We have always been remote and that won’t change. This has allowed the flexibility to thrive during the pandemic.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Kean Graham: Creating a culture of leadership must first come from the founders. Leadership is the most important when problems arise. There are two methods that a leader can utilize to solve problems: Superman or Yoga.
Superman flies in to save the day. The problem is fixed immediately and the leader is the hero. Yoda shows patience and asks team members how they would fix the issue independent of the leader. The problem initially gets fixed later but the team is given more autonomy to operate and they learn valuable skills as a result.
Founders that nurture their team members to lead and take responsibility for solutions will cultivate a culture of leadership.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Kean Graham: Absolutely! My three top values are quite similar to MonetizeMore’s company cultural pillars. Below are the three main pillars of our culture:
- Reliability: Do what you say you will do. A team member’s word is the most valuable thing they own and they must recognize this. Promises should be made very carefully and time estimates must be made deliberately.
- Enterprising: Each team member must be a resourceful and creative problem solvers. Each of our team members is considered an ‘in’trapreneur (sic) and is expected to own their responsibilities. This higher-level perspective towards a team member’s responsibilities incites more deliberate behaviour and holistic thinking on behalf of the company.
- Kaizen: This is the ideology coined by Toyota that believes that everything can be improved and deserves to be improved. Each of our team members strives to improve themselves at least a little bit every day and everything around them. Each team member looks at every facet of the company and has the top-of-mind question in their head at all times, “How can this be improved?”
These three values are also communicated in my personal branding as they are very important to me and a big part of entrepreneurial success.
How do you monitor if the people in your department are performing at their best?
Kean Graham: We implemented a key performance indicator (KPI) system via Google Sheets in accordance with each team and its workflows with the following color system:
- Green: Exceptional!
- Blue: Great
- Yellow: Room for improvement
- Red: Terrible
This color determines the performance of each team on a daily basis. The KPIs range from project duration, to ad revenue increase to client or candidate leads. The KPI per team is the most important quantifiable measure of the whole team’s performance.
The green KPI range is the best score and the red KPI range is the worst. If the team hits yellow they must discuss internally how to improve the KPI score and if it’s red they have to urgently make changes to improve the score for the next day.
Since implementing this KPI system, company performance has dramatically improved. We’ve seen great collaboration within teams, more innovative thinking, greater work ethic, and improved morale with the increased transparency and being part of a team that is working towards a clear and common goal. The KPI system has been one of our best implementations in our history and works especially well for remote teams.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Kean Graham: I would advise other entrepreneurs to hire for propensity and train for competency. You can train skills but it’s more difficult to train a good attitude. Try to find candidates that value constant improvement. Choose those that do it in their personal lives too. It might be attractive to hire an experienced candidate that has a lot of skills, however, if they don’t continue to improve they will be surpassed by the candidates that consistently improve. It’s much better to hire those that have positive trajectories rather than stale trajectories.
Don’t underestimate effective communicators. I’m sure you’ve heard this before so I’m going to be more specific. We made the mistake to value technical proficiency over communication ability and habits. It hurt us in the long term. Even engineering has a lot of necessary communication and if there is a lack of communication, projects get delayed and suffer quality-wise. It’s important to hire team members that proactively communicate before things snowball. Hire team members that ask insightful questions. You should lean towards over-communicating vs. under communicating because the latter can be so much more damaging.
If you have or want to build a team, do them a favor and build them a purpose-driven culture. If you don’t, your company will create its own culture and those unintended cultural aspects ruin companies before it’s too late to fix. Start by writing it down on a document and share it with your team. Invite them to collaborate so they’ll buy in and become an advocate of your intended culture. It’ll take time but the momentum you’ll build will be unstoppable.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Kean Graham: Below is my favorite quote that motivates me:
“You will never write an extraordinary story until you realize you are the author”
This is an incredible quote because it enables me to enjoy my victories more and bounce back from my failures quickly. For victories, I know that even if there was a bit of perceived luck involved, it was my previous actions to inevitably lead to that event.
For my failures, I am able to learn from them immediately because I take responsibility and reflect on how I could have prevented the negative situation so that it never happens again. From there, I change a good thing into a bad thing by approaching the negative situation from a new clever angle. For example, we were disapproved by Google several years ago and lost millions as a result. We responded by improving our screening processes, diversifying our revenue streams, and partnering with a fraud suppression company to prevent this issue from happening again. As a result, we have rebuilt the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise!
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kean Graham 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 Kean Graham or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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