Celebrating Women: Kim Perell Wants You to Succeed
The CEO, author, multimillionaire, and mom gets frank about bankruptcy, traits for success, and mentoring via investment
Photo by Joe Wilson
Erin Meanley Glenny: You released The Execution Factor last fall. Why write a book?
Kim Perell: I went from being broke, unemployed, bankrupt, and feeling devastated when my first company went under, to starting a company at my kitchen table [digital marketing agency Frontline Direct], to selling a company, to advising another company. The book really is about sharing that if I can do it, anyone can. It’s important to remind everyone who’s saying, “How am I going to get the next round of funding?” “How am I going to start a company?” that you can do it, but you have to execute.
EMG: You wrote that execution is about getting it done; it separates the dreamers from the doers.
KP: It’s easy to dream, hard to do. You need a vision of the life you want, or a company you want to build. The book aims to give a blueprint of how to achieve that. Too many times our visions are so grandiose that you go into paralysis trying to obtain them, because you don’t even know where to start. Start small. What’s the one thing you can do today to get closer to your goal? Those little things make a huge difference over time.
EMG: You list five traits that help with execution.
KP: I see people with really great visions that don’t actually come to fruition. You need all of these traits in order to be successful: vision, passion, action, resilience, and relationships.
EMG: Beyond your ambition, one thing that stood out to me was your gift for spotting trends and recognizing opportunities.
KP: I’m good at pattern recognition. If you can recognize the patterns, you have a better chance at capitalizing on them. When I started my company, everyone said: “The internet is a fad. The internet is not going to work. That’s a terrible idea. You’re going to start a business on the internet?” I’ve seen firsthand the power of having that belief and not deviating when everyone else doubts you. Your belief has to be greater than everyone else’s doubt.
EMG: Are you this confident in your personal life? As a mom, I’m always thinking, “Am I doing the right thing here?”
KP: Being a mom is hard, right? I have four-year-old twins, and they’re insane—in a good way. I just do the best I can. They laugh because they ask, “Where are you going?” and I’m like, “I’m going to go change the world.” So it’s important to me to share that I love what I do. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents, and they’re passionate and wanted to do that every day. Seeing that come from your parents is inspiring.
EMG: What mistake did you learn along your path to success?
KP: I wish I had known that you can’t do it alone. After the bankruptcy, it was so hard letting my friends [whom I’d recruited] go. I just didn’t want to be in that position. It took me a long time to rehire, and I was afraid. But looking back, no one wants to do it alone. It’s fun to be part of a team. And as far as building that team, I don’t want to be a team of champions, I want a champion team. Having individuals that play as great performers doesn’t help; you need a high-performance team.
EMG: You’ve achieved all this success without an MBA. Do people need all those expensive degrees?
KP: I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for success. I don’t think IQ or having money is, either. Everyone has different skills, but they need to have that vision, and execute.
EMG: Give us three books that changed your life.
KP: I love Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s an old book. It’s brilliant. I love all Jack Welch, and I like Jim Collins’s Great by Choice. If you aren’t surrounded by a lot of great mentors, books are like teachers, right?
EMG: Your The Execution Factor Fund is all about providing mentoring via investment.
KP: I judge my success on how much I can impact the success of others. I started The Execution Factor Fund so I could give back to other entrepreneurs. My grandmother made a bet on me, and I want to make that bet on other people. So 100 percent of the royalties from the book go to funding entrepreneurs, plus the additional million dollars that I put into the fund. I want to invest in projects, but really, I invest in people whom I believe can execute.