Small Business

A monster idea: Monster.com

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Monster.com, one of the world’s leading job search engines, put the very first résuméon the internet and managed to forever change the way in which people look and apply for jobs, and build careers. Jeff Taylor, founder and former CEO of Monster, is, as his company name suggests, a man with big ideas.

Speaking at Growth Faculty’s Global Leadership Forum in December, he asked the audience, “Do you dream? I dream. I had a dream at 4.30 in the morning.

“It was a big idea, a monster idea. This was before the World Wide Web was even invented and I wrote it down on a pad in the dark... I got three patents and I helped millions of people find a job.”

After selling the company to TMP Worldwide, Taylor stayed on as CEO and helped the brand launch in more than 50 countries. He then left the company in 2005.

“I had a 360-degree entrepreneurial experience – I was the founder, I was the president, I was the CEO, I was the chairman and in my last three years I was Chief Monster,” he said.

“Why would you leave a job where you’re called the Chief Monster? What I realised was that I had given away my job so many times that they didn’t need me anymore. And I had some other ideas.”

Ideas such as a baby boomer social network called Eons.com, which he launched after leaving Monster and sold in April 2011; or his passion for DJing, which he does under the stage name Jefr Tale. Taylor has even had the chance to play gigs such as Burning Man, the weeklong festival in the Nevada desert.

Building a business  

The success of Monster, and his successive ventures Eons.com and Tributes.com, hinges upon Taylor’s philosophy that in business everyone needs to be happy.

“If your customers are happy then that really defines your brand and if your employees are happy, that really defines your culture,” he said, adding that Apple is a perfect example of a company that manages to appease both.

Taylor describes himself as a culture builder. On the first anniversary of Eons.com, for example, Taylor convinced his 45 employees to join him in a celebratory jump into Boston Harbor, a tradition that has since become ingrained into the company’s culture.

“It was part of our history, our folklore,” he said. “I’d walk down the hall [of the Eons.com office] and listen to an interview going on and they’d be saying ‘Oh by the way, you’re going to have to jump into the ocean’.”

Following that first jump into the harbour, it became an annual event for the company known as “the leap of faith”.

If you have the right culture, the brand and marketing takes care of itself. Case in point, when challenged by Sir Richard Branson to improve on the world record the Virgin founder had set for waterskiing behind a blimp, Taylor accepted and beat it!

“Why do you do this? For fun? Absolutely for fun. And it was fun,” he said.

But more than this, the experience of the CEO becomes an experience the brand can share.

“It’s fantastic because now [employees could] say, you want to hear a little bit about my CEO? He’s a world record holder!”

The key, he says, is all about imbuing the company with stories, and as the CEO, being able to craft those experiences into legend.

 “Some of the best ideas in our company weren’t the ideas that cost a lot of money. They were the ideas that we came up with [together with] our team to get our company to stand out from other companies.”

The CEO of your own life

Taylor’s experiences have culminated into his driving philosophy – that to succeed, you need to be a leader in every aspect of your life, not just in business.

“You’re the CEO of your own life,” he said. “I discovered that there are a few ground rules that I’ve been following since I was in college.

“The first one is that if you’re going to go to a meeting, you might as well run it. What I decided was that if I wasn’t running the meeting, then I actually was working on somebody else’s ideas.”

Having your own ideas, and believing in them, is pertinent here, he explained.

“I spend time in preparation so I would always come up with an idea,” he said. “I always told my team that we’ll work on my idea unless you come up with a better one.”

It all starts with commanding control, he said, and also to approach learning as a kind of quasi-religion.

“If you’re nervous, you’re in danger of learning something. I feel most people are not nervous in their day-to-day lives. Try to put yourself in a position where you’re nervous. It’s not that hard to do but it means you can’t just do the same thing that you do everyday.

“I’m also a student of Dr. Seuss,” he said, referencing one of his works Oh, the places you’ll go.

“I have this on my wall in my office because I think this is a challenge for each of us. You can go to the waiting place (that’s easy to do), but can you go to the noisiest, craziest, coolest place where you’re going to be nervous and where you might actually learn something?”

The laws of FAME

Taylor ascribes to the motto FAME, an acronym he invented that guides his principles. The ‘F’ stands for being a free agent. This requires you to go above and beyond your call of duty.

“Your job description is the base for your experience. Whatever I hired you to do as the director of marketing, or director of product or customer service manager or the manager of first impressions, what you do beyond that is what really defines you. So what can you do to help our company?

“You can’t just do the minimum. What else can you do?”

The next letter, A, stands for ‘train like an athlete’.

“How hard do you actually work? Because I think you can work harder. If you coast, you only coast one way and that’s downhill. Who’s the first person to know you’re coasting? You! Do something about it if you know you’re coasting.”

The M is to prepare like a marketer, a concept Taylor believes many struggle with.

“When you go out on a Friday night and you’re at a party and someone says, ‘What’s up?’, what do you say? SSDD – same stuff, different day.

“It’s true in business too,” he said. “These are your key messages. Don't just say same stuff going on. Think about your life.”

This is all about selling your brand, yourself, your ideas.

“Aren’t we all in sales?” he asked the audience. “Given the choice to go into a chick flick or an action movie on a Friday night, some of you kick in like salespeople I’ve never seen before. Your salesperson inside you is there – the question is when is it there? And I think it needs to be there a little bit more.”

The E of FAME stands for engaging like an entrepreneur, an element which depends on your ideas and how you execute them.

“My definition of an entrepreneur is when everyone around you thinks you’re crazy and you still think you have a good idea and you act on it,” he advised. “This is the lonely part of being an entrepreneur. You actually have to believe in your idea so even [when] your friends… say it’s a bad idea, you can still believe in yourself to push forward.”

Taylor’s major client in the early stages of launching Monster was not sold on the business.

“Not only do I hate the name, I don’t like the business idea. No one will look for a job during the day while they’re at work,” the client told him.

But further research into the market proved Taylor was onto a winning idea with mass appeal to a huge market.

“The most popular time to look for a job is on Mondays at 2pm in a rolling time zone all around the world.”

An entrepreneur also isn’t afraid to stand apart from the crowd and stand up for their idea.

“Part of engaging like an entrepreneur is being willing to put yourself out in front of the crowd, put yourself in front of your company. Some of you won't stand up in front of your company but I think you should be willing to stand out in front of yourself.”

And his final piece of advice? “Don't let anybody tell you how long you should take a shower because you can change the world in a half an hour shower.”

Published on: Friday, January 13, 2012

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