Josh Steimle started his digital marketing agency MWI in 1999, two years before graduating. Since then, he has written over 200 articles for world famous business magazines such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Mashable. He wrote a book, Chief Marketing Officers at Work and he is a TEDx speaker. Josh created an online program helping and teaching people how to become an influencer. He now lives in Shenzhen, China, with his family.
You started your digital marketing company at a young age, two years before graduating. Can you tell us more about where your ideas/inspirations come from? What were you the most passionate about?
I grew up in a loving, supportive home with great parents where I felt safe taking risks (and I have a few broken arms to prove it). My mother was a school teacher but also very artistic and creative. My father was a rocket scientist, an inventor, and had a side business in addition to his full time work, selling one of his inventions. I think the environment of safety and creativity, plus seeing behind the scenes of the education industry, and then seeing my father start a business, made me feel like I didn’t need a certification or degree to do what I wanted to do in life, and that if I wanted to start a business or do something I could just go ahead and do it.
Also, I had ideas about starting businesses from a young age. I remember being 10 years old and talking with a friend about starting a business and we had it all planned out, as well as 10 year olds could. I still remember the thrill of talking about it. I started some small businesses when I was a teenager, but very limited stuff. It was only matter of time before I started a real business.
The “real business” I started is the same business I run today, and it started out as a web design business because I had a background in art and as a web designer and that’s what I knew how to do. Then it grew from there.
What do you think has made it possible to keep your business growing for 17 years?
Keeping it alive was as simple as not giving up. A lot of people would have quit when I didn’t, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes quitting is the right decision. Maybe I should have quit. But I didn’t, and now the business is growing rapidly and doing well, so I’m glad I stuck with it.
What would you consider to be the main turning point in your career?
The recent success is due in large part to two factors; 1) I brought on a partner who has been awesome at helping grow the business, and 2) I got the chance to write for Forbes which lead to a lot of other opportunities that showcased my business and brought us clients.
You interviewed 29 CMOs of successful businesses such as Spotify, Target, and PayPal for your book Chief Marketing Officers at Work. What is the key thing you learned from all those interviews?
One key thing I learned from speaking with these experiences marketers and talking with them about their careers is that the job you’ll have 20 years from now probably doesn’t exist today, and whatever you’re studying in school today is based on the jobs that existed 20 years ago. This means what you really need to learn is how to learn, how to enjoy learning, and how to provide value. If you know what it means to provide real value to others, and you enjoy learning, then you’ll always be able to figure out how to provide value, which means you’ll never be out of work no matter how bad things get, and when things are good you’ll do very well.
You currently live in China with your family, and you’ve also lived in Brazil and Hong Kong, but you’re originally from the US. Can you tell us some things you have learned from living in China?
China is awesome! I love everywhere I’ve lived, but China is amazing and so much fun. It’s a very safe place, and there are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs here. I don’t think there is a place with more opportunity for so many entrepreneurs anywhere else in the world.
Also, sometimes when you point to a picture of what looks like vegetables on a menu at a restaurant you get a big plate of chicken feet, and I don’t eat chicken feet.
If you could go back ten years, what would you change?
I’d work less and spend more time with my family. The day I started doing that I started making more money, too. I don’t buy into this Silicon Valley “ideal” of working 100-hour weeks. I did that for seven years and I regret it. It was a waste. You don’t have to work hard to do well. In fact, you might do a lot better financially if you set boundaries and work less, because then you have to make better decisions—you can’t depend on unlimited time to bail you out.
Which one quality do you think an entrepreneur needs to build a fulfilled and successful career?
Humility. If you’re humble you’re able to learn, if you can learn you can progress, and fulfillment and success come from progression.
What is the number one piece of advice you would give to a new entrepreneur to build his career?
Do it now. There’s never been a better time. The risk level is so low. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You try, you fail, you move back in with your parents for a few months, and then you go get a normal job or try again. That’s the WORST thing that can happen? That’s not too bad. It used to be that if you tried something and failed you either died or were ruined for the rest of your life.