Guest Post: Brian Robben from Robben Media!
For my 20th post and the second edition of my guest interview series, I would like to introduce my friend, Brian Robben! I have a guest for every 10th post and it is always an entrepreneur that I am inspired by, is passionate about doing great work, and is making an impact.
Brian is a serial entrepreneur and the Amazon bestselling author of 3 books. He runs the fast-growing digital marketing company called Robben Media, and he also founded TakeYourSuccess.com, a top website on entrepreneurship that attracts half a million readers a year. Brian's work, which focuses on motivating and equipping people to reach their potential and live a successful life, has been featured on Fox News, AOL, 700 WLW, and other major publications.
I've known Brian personally since 2014 when we both attended St. X for high school. He was a senior on the basketball team when I was a freshman and he helped me out while I was transitioning to playing on varsity. We also went to Miami together and he was there my freshman year. Fast forward to the early part of 2018, I had started seeing some of his posts on social media and started watching his videos. Learning about his story and how he decided to become an entrepreneur was inspiring. Senior year, right before I came back to school from spring break, I asked him if he would be willing to meet with me so I could pick his brain about what being an entrepreneur is like and some of the struggles that he had faced. We traded some ideas and he told me that my head was in the right place and to keep learning and pursuing my dreams and goals.
Around October when I started my blog, he reached out to me and told me that he liked what I was doing with the blog and I was putting out good content. I then asked for his opinion on my site and what he thought I could improve on. He gave me a couple tips on how to drive more traffic to the site, gain more subscribers, and add value to the reader. Part of what he does with Robben Media is doing just that and I hired him to do some site revisions for me. I liked what he had done so much that when I came up with the Rod's Recommend Reads idea and needed to add that to the site, I went back to him to make the site additions and it was a success! I liked working with him because I felt like we had a genuine relationship and even on work-related calls we would often branch off and talk about other business-related topics or things we were seeing in the marketplace. As a young business starting out, he really wanted to help me and would take time out of his schedule for calls or texts and give me a lot of tips to help me out. All that said, here is my interview with Brian Robben!
Rod: After doing some research on you, entering college your goal was to become a lawyer and attend Harvard Law School. You then went out and achieved a 3.97 GPA through college. Why did you place such high expectations on yourself and what were some of the challenges and sacrifices you made in order to achieve that? We may have some readers that are considering a career in Law.
Brian: Setting the bar as high as I could for Harvard Law was a mind trick on myself. I knew if I set it any lower than that I’d coast through college and God knows end up in some kind of deep trouble. I recommend everyone reading this to set the bar higher than where they have it now because scary goals get your attention, and where your attention is, you can make crazy momentum that transforms you into something better than you thought you could become.
I stopped going out because every minute in the day counts and if you count up all the time getting ready to go out, pregaming, being out, the after party, sleeping in the next day, not feeling good enough to get to work until late in the day, it just took more value from my life than it produced. Also, some friendships suffered as I naturally had less time for everyone. Not a lot of people appreciate someone like me who is really going for it because it makes them feel bad about themselves, so I’m sure my popularity on campus suffered.
Rod: After all that dedication, before your senior year you realized that you didn't really love law you loved the qualities, prestige, and pay that came with it and after realizing that you felt entrepreneurship could give you some of those same attributes. What made you decide to pursue entrepreneurship and not another field like finance, marketing, engineering, etc..?
Brian: While on the phone with a top law school consultant who I was paying $300 an hour, he asked me how studying for the LSAT was going, and I said I’m doing fine but not enjoying it. That comment pushed me to realize if I don’t enjoy the LSAT, I won’t enjoy law school and I won’t enjoy BigLaw.
That’s when I put a stop to it and decided to become an entrepreneur instead—truly one of the best decisions of my life. Thank God! Looking back, I’d always done my own thing and been a rebel, so the decision made perfect sense.
Rod: All that being said, do you still think college makes sense for people today?
Brian: I don’t. Even Apple and Google agree with me as they don’t require college degrees. You tell me why some of the smartest companies who look for the smartest employees don’t require degrees? Because they’re looking for skills, not a certificate that says I’m competent enough to go to class and not fail out. Take skills over degrees every single time. The only reason college makes sense is if you’re entering a field where you literally can’t work in that field without a degree. But for most people, forget about it.
Rod: Growing up how did you view entrepreneurship? Was anyone in your family an entrepreneur or did you just think that having a traditional 9-5 job was the only route?
Brian: Well my dad first told me entrepreneurs are people who say they’re an entrepreneur to hide the fact they’re unemployed with no money, which is funny and often true. That’s one thing I remember.
My great-grandpa, who made it past 100 years old, owned a watch company and my grandpa invented some inks for a company he worked for, so maybe a bit of that passed down to me. Honestly, I’m the trailblazing entrepreneur of the extended family and I enjoy how people can’t say I was handed anything like other second- and third-generation entrepreneurs.
But I didn’t really think about it much growing up. I was more of a doer than a thinker. Looking back, I was always creating new ways to make money, get in trouble, or organize my friends to do something, like I introduced fantasy football to my school and was the league commissioner, and I also introduced betting and March Madness brackets which were always a blast to organize it, collect money, talk smack, and see who won.
Rod: You started your first business TakeYourSuccess.com in January 2015 and then started your first sales job after college in June of 2015. Why did you decided to start it, and did you ever think it would grow into something that would actually give you enough income to provide for yourself?
Brian: I started TakeYourSuccess.com as a senior in college and 100% believed I’d make money from it. My plan was to write three articles a week and build up an audience of email subscribers before I monetized anything. So, while I was learning a ton about blogging, SEO, web design, email marketing, I wasn’t making any money my first 9 months as a blogger. Then my book The Golden Resume came out and it started making me passive income every month, which gave me the confidence that with a little time I could make a solid income from this online business. Every big company has small beginnings. So be proud of where you come from and don’t quit.
Rod: After 9 months you quit your sales job and started down the path of entrepreneurship. Talk about how you decided to take the leap and how you overcame family and friends advising you not to. Also, talk about the not so pretty side of becoming an entrepreneur that people might not know about and how hard it actually is to become a successful one.
Brian: It didn’t feel right to be pitching products to businesses when I knew I had the creativity and know-how to pitch my own services that would help businesses in more valuable areas. Also, I’m not one to listen to many people and I trust myself to figure it out, so I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of support around me. After I quit, I started doing social media marketing for clients and never looked back. My first client. Dr. Puder, paid me $300 a month to grow his Instagram client and I’ll never forget him and the opportunity he gave me because that started it all. He’s still a client to this day and a great guy who is full of wisdom.
There’s a dark side to being an entrepreneur, for sure. It’s lonely, not many people understand what you do, the pressures and responsibilities pile up, the work put in compared to the income is awful in the beginning, and you never know if you’re going to “make it” or not. But all of that also makes it fun and pushes you to your best effort. I wouldn’t trade the challenge for anything.
Rod: How do you manage to balance being a full-time entrepreneur but also make time for yourself, family, and friends? And what are some things you do to block out distractions and make sure when you are working you are being productive?