SETH GODIN has written fourteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. American Way Magazine calls him, "America's Greatest Marketer," and his blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His latest book, We Are All Weird, calls for end of mass and for the beginning of offering people more choices, more interests and giving them more authority to operate in ways that reflect their own unique values, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project. His recent Kickstarter for his newest book (The Icarus Deception out in January 2013) broke records for its size and the speed that it reached its goal.
As an entrepreneur, he has founded dozens of companies, most of which failed. Yoyodyne, his first internet company, was funded by Flatiron and Softbank and acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. It pioneered the use of ethical direct mail online, something Seth calls Permission Marketing. He was VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo! for a year.
His latest company, Squidoo.com, is ranked among the top 125 sites in the US (by traffic) by Quantcast. It allows anyone (even you) to build a page about any topic you're passionate about. The site raises money for charity and pays royalties to its million plus members.
Q: What’s the most significant risk you’ve taken professionally?
It's easy for this to become a semantic exercise (what means significant, what means risk) but for me, it was choosing to fire my company's biggest client.
At the time, I had about six employees, we were a book packager creating and selling and building book ideas, and our biggest client accounted for more than half our revenue. It was early days, the first year that I felt we might not fold at any moment.
The problem was that they ceased acting like our partner the day I ended up selling a multi-title book project for them. They thought that the project had gotten too big to share, so they became difficult. It was an organization that was already good at being difficult, one that brought a sharp pencil and little humanity to every interaction. After many months, it was clear that if we kept working with them, we would become an organization that was good at dealing with difficult clients. If we could survive this, the thinking went, then we could survive anyone.
The thing is, I didn't want to become an organization good at dealing with difficult clients.
So we gave them the project, here, take it, and we walked away, taking a huge financial loss. It was crazy.
The good news is that we were energized by our freedom and the lack of finger pointing and nastiness, and made back the lost business in less than two months.