Tatsuya “Tats” Nakagawa of Castagra: How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business
Reach out to people that share your interests and values. LinkedIn gives you the option of following people instead of just asking for a connection request. This gives you an opportunity to build a relationship without pushing them for connection requests. Once you develop some dialogue with them, you can send a connection request. It seems simple, but I don’t see this method being used very often.
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tatsuya “Tats” Nakagawa.
Tatsuya “Tats” Nakagawa is the Co-Founder and COO of Castagra, a sustainable roof coating manufacturing company. Castagra’s Ecodur roof coating is used by world-class companies such as General Mills, Tyson Foods, Sysco, NFL, MLB, and McDonalds. Ecodur was also voted top “Greenvention” by the reality show Dragons’ Den.
He has launched hundreds of products and services, co-authored the book “Overcoming Inventoritis: The Silent Killer of Innovation” (forward by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple), and spoken to a variety of industry groups including: Chartered Accounts of Canada, Canadian Bar Association, The American Chamber of Commerce, and The International Internet Marketing Association.
He’s also written articles for Fast Company, Construction Today, and Industry Week, and has been quoted on CBS News, Global TV, CBC, The Globe and Mail, and BC Business.
He is the host of the popular C-Suite Network podcast, Specified Growth Podcast (check out his podcasts at www.tatstalks.com). The podcast features interviews with leaders who have overcome adversity, built massive organizations (zero to $100 million+), and made a positive change in the building materials and coatings industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s a pleasure doing this interview with you!
Growing up, I had a lot of business ideas that were fun but didn’t go anywhere. Deep inside, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur — but I needed more help to get there. When I was in college, I was seeking out a mentor. A friend of mine then introduced me to Peter Roosen, a gifted inventor.
Sometime around 2009, one of Peter’s non-competes ran out (for those who want to know more about what a non-compete is, you can read more from this link). He worked on a building materials product that he built out and sold to a Fortune 500 company. In the process, he accidentally created a great coating technology. There were field trials in many different coating applications such as roofing, flooring, ferry decks and so on. It showed great promise, but nothing was done to commercialize it further. We decided that there was an opportunity to form a company and develop new intellectual property to redeploy this technology. Hence, we started putting up a company. We then came up with our company called Castagra, a combination of two words: Castor, which is from castor oil, our main ingredient, and Agra, which we picked up from the word “agriculture”.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
This is my favorite story to tell.
While we were getting ready to organize in launching Castagra, we came across a reality game show competition through Dragon’s Den.
For those that don’t know, Dragons’ Den is a TV show in Canada like Shark Tank in the US that features five to six top business leaders (at the time, leaders like Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary were on the show) who evaluate and potentially invest in businesses and new products, which the hopeful entrepreneurs pitch on the show.
At the show, there was a competition called “Greenvention”, which was not part of the regular reality show. However, they have put that in place to search for the top innovative green solution in the country. This was way better than the show’s original format since contestants could win the top cash prize worth $100,000 without giving up any equity.
Contestants from all over Canada then poured in, and about more than 4,000 businesses were ready to take their chances to win the jackpot. Stakes were indeed high.
We thought it would be great if we chose our plant-based coating and building material technology called Ecodur. Our only challenge was, “How do we make coatings look great for TV? It’s not like paint, but it’s just as boring watching its cure.”
We struggled with it for a while and suddenly, it occurred to us — we can present it similar to a cooking show, like Martha Stewart!
We would mix the ingredients in front of the Dragons and pour the substance into a frying pan. Due to its fast curing abilities, the coating would cure and stick to the Teflon frying pan right before their eyes. It worked, and we won! The show aired a total of twelve times and reached millions of viewers around the nation. Essentially, we received $100,000 plus millions of dollars of free exposure. Thousands of emails and calls poured from all over North America. The response was overwhelming.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we were first starting out my business, I took a business trip which took me along the coast of California towards San Diego. We saw a beautiful sandy beach, so we decided to stop by and enjoy the beach and its ambience — but also get some work done. You know those ads you see where people are young and retired, sitting with a laptop by the beach, checking their investments or working comfortably? Well, that’s the image I had in my mind when we stopped by the beach.
Back to the scenario: so we stopped by the beach and there is a beautiful harrier jet flying slowly towards the aircraft carrier parked nearby. It was like a scene from a movie. I opened up my laptop, and suddenly, a gust of wind blew a whole bunch of sand on our laptops! We then spent the next two to three hours getting the sand out of the cracks of our keyboard.
Don’t trust advertising! I still get a laugh when I think how naive I was when I first started. I guess we all have to learn.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
This is a good question which I usually start by giving out a little trivia. Let me share a “once upon a time” moment with you.
In Baku, Azerbaijan, a certain Garry Kasparov with the original name Garri Weinstein or Harry Weinstein, was born on April 13, 1963. He was a Soviet-born chess master who became the world chess champion in 1985.
You’d probably ask: how did he pave his way to being the world chess champion in 1985?
Kasparov found himself fascinated with the world of chess at a very early age, 6 years old. He then studied under former world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik from 1973 to 1978. At 13 years old, he became the Soviet youth champion. When he became 16, he won his first international tournament in 1979. In 1980, he became an international grandmaster.
While being a prodigy in the field of chess at his time, the young Kasparov also encountered a setback. Though he was the first world chess champion to be defeated by a supercomputer in a competitive match, he was hailed as the youngest world chess champion at the age of 22 years old.
So, what does this tell us?
Even for the chess genius Kasparov, it took him 11 years to become a true expert (as a grandmaster).
In my opinion, there are two ways to become a recognized industry expert. You can either:
- Spend 20 or more years honing your craft and credibility through conferences, TV shows, content marketing, and others; or
- Carve out a niche in an area where there are currently few or no experts.
Say you choose the latter, now you ask yourself: What type of niche should I go for?
Technology, for one, is a good area.
For example, there is a new technology platform that’s released and you jump on board then quickly become extremely knowledgeable in it. Since it’s new, you’re not competing with people with a lot of experience.
When LinkedIn was first released, I was one of the early adopters of the tool. I moved in quickly and became an expert. I was so excited about the potential that I assembled a team of people that went around and promoted it.
What was the upside of that activity? I was invited to speak at countless business associations. I even went to a women-only business association only because they couldn’t find a women expert to speak.
Would I have received those same invites as a marketing speaker? No.
But at the time, I was the only LinkedIn marketing expert so I always got the call.
So with that being said, it pays being first in the industry to fast-track your expert status.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Cultivate a network of like-minded people.
LinkedIn is filled with millions and millions of people — it can actually be overwhelming. I know some people that mindlessly send out connection request after connection request, hoping for a good result.
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work. How would you feel if you got random request after request?
Instead of doing that, reach out to people that share your interests and values. LinkedIn gives you the option of following people instead of just asking for a connection request. This gives you an opportunity to build a relationship without pushing them for connection requests. Once you develop some dialogue with them, you can send a connection request. It seems simple, but I don’t see this method being used very often.
2. Use value-added DMs (direct messages) or post comments to build relationships.
The number one goal of any social platform is to eventually get to a one-on-one conversation. That conversation could be via phone, video chat, or in person. The important thing is to take time and cultivate the relationship before reaching out. I get tons of direct messages that are in person which are sales pitches outright.
Stand out from the crowd by being thoughtful and respectful of people’s time.
Ultimately, the approach you should take would be similar to what you would do if you were at a face-to-face event. Going around shoving your business card in people’s faces will not get results. Sending vague requests for meetings or messages asking to pick someone’s mind will be ignored. But a thoughtful well-researched value-added message will have an extremely good chance of getting a response. Quality is a lot better than quantity.
3. Share valuable content with your network.
When you open your LinkedIn from desktop or on your mobile app, what do you see? You see post after post of information and it can be overwhelming. Many of the posts will either be ignored completely or flipped past without taking a closer look.
However, if you’re like most people that have certain contacts and certain people with the same interests within their network, you will take the time to stop, listen or read, and understand their message. Those people deliver value with the content they provide. If you’re not delivering value yet, check your contacts that you look forward to seeing on what their next update will be — I’ll give you a hint of what type of content adds value to you and others on the platform.
Engagement and conversations generated from your content will lead you to better relationships that will ultimately allow you to have better conversations and other opportunities that will come to you in the future.
4. Respond to all thoughtful requests.
It’s easy to get jaded by the number of messages that you get on LinkedIn, but always remember: there is a real person on the other end. Assuming they’ve taken the time to write you a well thought-out message that you find sincere or thoughtful, always take the time to respond to their message. If there are certain questions that you get asked over and over, you can create a valuable response to their question. You don’t need to type it from scratch every time. You can use a tool like a text expander to write your detailed and valuable response to their question which will be helpful to the people that reach out.
5. Send invites out to people you meet.
Make it a habit to send out LinkedIn requests to everyone that you meet. This includes vendors, partners, friends, anyone. Making this a habit, and it will grow your network quickly and allow you to have bigger reach into the network.
Depending on the type of network you are in, you can also include your LinkedIn profile links on your email signature bars, business cards, and article bios. You may also consider opening up your DMs so people who are not yet connected to you via LinkedIn can send you messages as well. This is a personal preference — some people want a bit more privacy than others, but for people that want to meet as many people as possible, this is applicable.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I want to help people think bigger and live up to their true potential. I believe that all of us have the ability to positively impact at least 2 million people in their lifetime.
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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I would love to interview Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Elon Musk on my podcast Specified (www.tatstalks.com). I mean, who wouldn’t? They’re one of the most successful and sought-after business tycoons and philanthropists of all time. I could pick up a lot from them and I would definitely be the luckiest man alive if I get to sit on a breakfast or lunch with them.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!