…I’d call it “Change your Mind” and build it on the premise that no matter how sure we are that we are right about anything, we must always be open to having our minds changed. To stay open enough to listen to those we disagree with and try to consider and appreciate their point of view. It’s a hard thing to do in a time when we are so divided. But it’s what we must do, because whether we like it or not, we’re all in this world together.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michel Bayan. Michel is a technology entrepreneur, executive, and advisor to both startups and global brands. He’s passionate about the human condition, community, independent work, the value of clear communication and diversity of culture and thought. Michel has founded successful media and technology companies, is an advisory board member to several startups in e-commerce, B2B, direct selling, media and more. Michel has been a speaker and moderator at several conferences around the US and Europe on topics from the rise and evolution of digital, media, AI, mobile CRM, direct selling, predictive analytics and more. In direct and social selling, Michel was a pioneer in bringing mobile technology to bear for millions of independent reps (micro-influencers) and numerous global companies. To Michel, success is something more than a company’s valuation or one’s bank account balance alone. It must also include the kind of person one has become along the way. He explores this and other principles in the DirecTech Podcast in conversations with world-class CEOs and executives. He is an avid world traveler (30+ countries), a long-time meditator, yoga teacher and unofficial relationship coach to friends and family.
Thank you so much for joining us Michel! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career as a classically trained actor and yoga teacher. Little did I know that years of studying human emotions and behavior, how people communicate, and techniques to get centered and healthy would come to bear fruit as a tech entrepreneur. I started my first tech company (a boutique digital agency) in 2007 and my first bonafide tech startup in 2011, which we later exited. While I would never have predicted that I’d be on this path, in hindsight one of my first memories is standing in my father’s nightclub in 1978. It was called The Experience Room (I still have a poster) and my dad started it for very different reasons than you might imagine. He was a pioneer in Psycho-Acoustics (how sound and music affect behavior) and the club was his laboratory. Growing up, I was with my dad through his entrepreneurial journey in behavioral sciences, so looking back, it’s not surprising that I’m now in a field that’s so related. I’m borderline obsessed with who we are as humans, what makes us tick and the power we have to shape our own reality as well as that of others.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I remember raising our first bonafide seed round for my first startup. My co-founder and I took a leap of faith and moved in together into an amazing and inspiring live/work space in downtown LA. We believed in ourselves and we were naive enough to have no idea how hard the journey would be. The month we raised that first round of funding I was down to $125 in the bank with $4000 rent due in two weeks. We cut it so close. Looking back, the entire journey of being a startup entrepreneur is just as much an exercise in emotional fitness as anything else. Again and again, we are tested. No matter how prepared we are, surprises come up all the time knocking us off center. And all the while we are putting everything we have into this venture. It’s easy to see how our identity can get wrapped up in the success or failure of the company. That’s the trap we have to avoid.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I’ve always been stubborn. Again and again in life, I’ve wanted an experience, a thing, a reality that others thought couldn’t be done and I just wasn’t willing to accept that. I had this belief that I could make it happen. A lot of the time I did. A lot, I didn’t. But those “did nots” were all lessons that shaped me for the next go around. I remember telling my first co-founder on a day when we were both really down “Hey man, you know what? We’re getting paid to go to business school right now. The worst case for us if this thing fails, is we learned more than we could have in school and we got paid to do it.” If I had to pick one quality that keeps me going it’s constantly reminding myself that whatever is happening, however hard it is, I CHOOSE to be here. I GET to be on this adventure and I am the only one with the power to decide what any of it all means to me. So if it’s all so hard and I’m all down on myself (those days certainly come), I take the time to let the emotions pass through without trying to cram them down. I let it out with a workout or a yoga practice, or whatever I need. Then I remind myself that I am the creator of my reality and I get back at it with a new interpretation of what it all means.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
I call it #relentless. A relentless drive to learn. That’s what being an entrepreneur really is to me. You have to learn and grow faster than everyone else. You have to be VERY comfortable with the uncomfortable. Today I’m building my third startup. Our platform has been live for over two years, we’re at $1.8M in ARR and about to open our 3rd round of financing. All of that learning has helped me find an amazing co-founder, a great team and a base of first enterprise customers willing to step way out of their box and take a chance on a whole new future. A future for how companies that use direct sellers, micro-influencers and gig workers to acquire and serve customers can give e-commerce and retail a run for their money.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We believe that having people being the center of a good or service in their local community is the most powerful way to go to market. But if you want to maximize the potential of a model that relies on human relationships to acquire and keep customers, you have to understand people better than they know themselves. Their biases, personalities, desires, capacities, goals, etc. What makes us unique is a deep, data-driven approach to understanding and augmenting the relationships these brand representatives have with their customers. Little by little we’re helping reps build deeper bonds with their customers and team members so they can really maximize their potential in that gig and help their customers have an incredible experience with the brands they represent.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
First, meditate. Seriously. The science is there. If you’re not doing it you are simply leaving your potential on the table.
Overall I would say invest in yourself. Your learning and growth. Your ability to communicate with other customers, team members, vendors, the janitor, in a way that can authentically touch, move and inspire. No matter how smart you are, you’re going to need other people on this journey of yours. Invest in your ability to understand, select, listen, empathize with and inspire them.
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? Can you share a story?
It’s not really a specific person but a quality in several people in my life that has been most helpful. The far-too-small group of people who have been brave, empathetic and tactful enough to show me one of my blindspots. Those are real friends. The ones who can tell you the truth in a way that you can hear and absorb it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I decided to leave my life as an artist I made an agreement with myself. I would prove that one can be a good person and a good business person at the same time. That comes out primarily in the culture we work so hard to build as a company. Working hard to strike a balance between getting sh!t done and really caring about the human beings we do business with. Yes, I volunteer and support non-profits. Yes, I try to mentor younger founders as time permits.. But it’s really the kind of man I do my best to show up as every day that I think makes the most difference. It impacts every human being I interact with.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?
- Meditate and learn how to center and calm yourself.
- Get some perspective on “what is reality” and how you are the creator of the meaning of everything in your life. Check out the Landmark Forum.
- It’s the journey. Find a way to enjoy the game of life. Games are really hard but we make them fun. Life is just a game. If you’re not enjoying the game you’re in, change your perspective or change the game.
- Get a wider perspective on what wealth really is. It’s a lot more than money. Check out the book The Last Safe Investment
- Be grateful. You’re alive during an amazing period of possibility and rapid development. Take the time to feel grateful for several things in your life every day. Stop for a second and look around. What an opportunity we have just to be on this journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’d call it “Change your Mind” and build it on the premise that no matter how sure we are that we are right about anything, we must always be open to having our minds changed. To stay open enough to listen to those we disagree with and try to consider and appreciate their point of view. It’s a hard thing to do in a time when we are so divided. But it’s what we must do, because whether we like it or not, we’re all in this world together.