I had the pleasure of interviewing Kean Graham, 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 $17M in revenues. Kean has traveled to over 80 countries during the 8 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
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 need to 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.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
A nomad entrepreneur friend and I were on a safari in Okavango, Botswana during our trip about a week ago. We were lucky enough to come across a pride of mother lions and their cubs feasting on a water buffalo they killed the previous night. The driver brought us dangerously close to them as you can see from this photo. As we got close, the lions stared right at us and got into pouncing position. One even got up and starting pacing.
We knew if we made any sudden movements or sounds, we could become lion lunch. I had my phone in my pocket and I couldn’t remember if the ringer was off. I was one impromptu client call away from being the next kill for that pride. Luckily, I had no calls during those moments that felt like hours and we got away safely.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
MonetizeMore is an enigma in the ad tech industry for the fact that it is 100% location independent. The ad tech industry has roots in the traditional advertising industry and has inherited many aspects such as a traditional view towards work culture and lifestyle. As a result, ad tech industry views towards location independent businesses are naive at best.
As a result, MonetizeMore is able to realize the vast competitive advantages of location independence like:
- Attracting talent
- Lower employee turnover
- Higher morale
- Higher productivity
- More innovation and creative problem solving from diverse workforce
- Better fit to serve international clientele
- Cover all time zones
For example, we were able to attract our most valuable team member because of the appeal of location and schedule freedom. He had received offers from almost every prominent ad tech company but chose MonetizeMore for the superior work lifestyle.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
MonetizeMore is developing AI technology to analyze the ad inventory auction data of each of our publisher partners and make acute recommendations how to increase their ad revenues. As we further perfect the tech, it will also predict the percentage increases in ad revenues the adjustment would produce.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
We implemented a key performance indicator (KPI) system in accordance to each team and its workflows with the following color system:
Yellow: Room for improvement
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 greater 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.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I couldn’t say all my success came from the mentorship of just one person but rather many. My Mother has been a huge inspiration in terms of raising me to be balanced, grounded, prepared and generous to those that deserve it. I can attribute my analytical skills and frugalness to my Father.
I learned a lot of important business lessons early on from a business consultant involved in many self-employment seminars that I took. I still use some of the core business principles today that he taught me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I would say the majority of the goodness I have brought to the World exist within MonetizeMore. The effect of a location and schedule free work lifestyle have changed the lives of many of our team members. Some have sold their stuff, ended their lease and now live full-time nomadic lives.
Other team members have moved to a small town they always wanted to live in that wouldn’t have relevant career opportunity otherwise but is viable when working with MonetizeMore. Some have even decided to have children because they can now raise their children while working from home and not have to worry about commuting and daycares.
All in all, many of our team members have taken advantage of their newly obtained freedom by engineering their ideal lifestyles. As a result, they commonly mention that they’d never go back to the office work lifestyle.
Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line?
Problem Solving: Many of the problems we solve are very difficult to solve and getting multiple point of views from different backgrounds is key to finding the best solution. This is where a diverse workforce provides additional value day-in and day-out.
For example, we were having issues with a publisher partner in India. We were working on smoothing out the issue. Our ad optimization expert from Pakistan was quite familiar with Indian culture and could speak the local language of that area in India and was able to solve the issue smoothly and the relationship became strong as ever.
Innovation: Distinct perspectives are key to generating unique ideas that solve problems in a new way or provide a new type of business vitamin. Attracting innovative minds are important but coupling them with team members from distinct backgrounds is even more powerful.
Our VP of Ad Tech comes from a Military background. One of the issues we had to deal with was inter-communication between the product team and other teams. He had a lot of experience working with other teams within the military and had a great deal of insight into the military systems that enabled efficient communication. He implemented similar systems that helped us improve inter-team communication.
Inclusive Culture: Establishing a diverse team creates a culture of inclusivity. When a team is diverse, difference tends to be celebrated which makes integration of new team members more streamlined and decreases turnover.
Our team is diverse in many ways which creates a culture of inclusiveness past the typical diversity criteria like country, religion or culture. Our oldest team member couldn’t believe how inclusive the team has been from day one especially when he joined our Company Retreat. This inclusiveness minimizes any initial friction of starting with a company.
Time Zone Coverage: Since we hire from 5 continents around the World, our work force is based across almost every time zone. Our clientele is quite similar. Rather than forcing our team to work awkward hours and having to pay more, managers have options to assign team members to publisher partners in the similar time zones.
For example, one of our publisher partners is based out of North America so we assigned an ad optimization expert based in the US. With the time zone sync, communication has been quite easy for both parties.
Flexibility: Having a diverse team allows a company to be more flexible. Companies can also attract and accept more diverse clientele and adjust to their needs. With a diverse set of team member options to assign to a publisher partner, MonetizeMore is able to be more flexible and achieve higher revenues.
Sometimes we work with publishers that have team members around the World as well or travel a lot. We respond to this by utilizing multiple team members in our ad optimization teams to improve our responsiveness with this publisher partner. As a result, we can work with many different publishers with varying situations and needs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“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 re-built the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Elon Musk has established himself as a symbol of the spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and success in the face of insurmountable odds. He is an inspiration for millions as well as myself.
If I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Elon over breakfast or lunch and pick his brain, I would be able to get some valuable business and life lessons. I have no doubt it would be a life changing conversation and hopefully he could learn at least one thing from myself.