Christopher MengelFounder of TalentSum, Interim CMO, Consultant

Chris has built talent solutions firms, consulting firms, and marketing firms - and has held several senior leadership roles (in both private and public companies) with responsibility across staffing and recruitment, outsourcing, management consulting, marketing and advertising, digital content and delivery, branding, and design. Chris has founded multiple businesses and personally led over 100 marketing and/or talent-related client engagements in more than 50 companies across more than a dozen industries. Most recently, Chris is working on his 7th startup, TalentSum, a provider of modernization and digital transformation services set up to help companies adapt to a new era. He has invested most of his energy, entrepreneurial drive and career into improving the known and inventing the new across talent acquisition, operations and marketing. Most of Chris' 20+ year career has been spent working with executives and CEO's in emerging and mid-market firms to create context, improve outcomes and deliver value – specifically to help them build and grow companies, foster new opportunities and relationships, improve operations, get marketing to work, set vision and strategy, rethink entire businesses or foundations, attract, engage and hire more of the right people, deliver analysis and actionable insights, improve corporate and employer brands to stand out in the crowd, shape culture and drive a sense of ownership, maintain engagement over the long term, and implement software and technologies across the marketing and talent landscapes.
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Recent Answers

I would think 3 to 6 % with 2-4 year vest and one year cliff + salary for someone in startup as CMO.

No. GPA is a reflection of being able to:

(1) listen to directions and focus on what is important.
(2) prioritize, set a structure, and get work done.
(3) memorize information, recite, and comprehend what you learned.

GPA has nothing do with entrepreneurship and your ability to succeed in business. In fact, many of the best entrepreneurs have OCD, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, or behavioral/emotional issues rooted in their past. Some are college drop-outs. Many are without advanced degrees. Some started business in high-school and never took another course.

While GPA is not an important marker to become a successful entrepreneur, there are other things that are, such as:

- the ability to focus on what's important
- knowing yourself and why you procrastinate
- the perseverance to stay the course
- or the ability to know when to fold a failing hand
- the abilities, attributes, ambitions, and access to support you along the way
- the ability to bring others around you and to get others excited about something larger than you.
- energy and a high enough emotional quotient (EQ) to treat others well and with respect and empathy.
- the ability to delegate but also jump in.
- the ability to do hard work when required (which is much of the time)
- the ability to be fueled by self, in isolation in the beginning; no needing to be built up by others.
- willing to learn from others, get mentors, have a growth-mindset and a curious mind.
- the ability to respect risks but see fear for what it is (an emotion).
- and so on.

So while GPA a not marker for success as an entrepreneur, being able to uncover a way forward or out is. Being an entrepreneur is a blessing and a curse. Don't beat yourself up if your direction isn't crystal clear today. Lastly,...two pieces of advice:

(1) life is long and you will know when it's right to be an entrepreneur.
(2) you can do wonderful work inside someone else's company as someone who cares about "entrepreneurship". Meaning, you don't have to box yourself in and only see yourself as entrepreneur or not. Owner/Operators are always looking for people who bring an entrepreneurial spirit, can do mindset, strong work ethic to the business.

Hope that helps. - cm

You differentiate yourself from your peers by being who you were meant to be - and no one else. Here's a way to think about how to get to where you want to go...

First, decide you are worthwhile and then discover what makes you special and unique in the world. Take whatever time to uncover your true interests. Then, find a way to express your interests and/or share them with others out in the world - and look for ways to match your combination of abilities, values, talent and skills to support your interests.

It might help to think in terms of "interests", not "passions". Passions, even the deepest feelings about things, will come and go, and one day you'll find yourself asking whether you should continue on in a direction because you don't "feel" like it anymore.

When you lose your passion, there is nothing set and ready to replace the wandering feelings that inevitably creep into your head. Aloneness, confusion, and fear can take hold.

When you live with passions and not interests, there is no "why" to fall back on. No formed structure to build on or grab hold of in any way when times are rough.

Take the time to uncover your deep interests, and then layer on top your uniqueness + time + efforts, etc. Living and moving forward in this way allows you to (almost always) wake up from a crappy night of sleep - or failed startup, or broken relationship, etc. - and still have something to hold onto that is real. Aligning with interests always provides you with a pre-defined sense of direction to fall back on.

By aligning with and working from a real set of interests (also called your "why") people will see you (as differentiated). Your differentiated self will grow from what you learn about yourself and what you do and how you act with what you know.

If you are in business, apply that same thinking above to business. Start with the center ring and move outward. Ask yourself: What do you like and believe in? What can you do better than others? What does the world need?

Then once you have answers, look for ways to move forward and talk about what makes you unique and the problems you can solve and how you can solve them better than others.

Hope this was helpful. - cm

Good question. Hard question. Complex. I'll group some ideas for you to consider this way:

Choose a Structure - Start with the end in mind. Building up an agency full of people is like bundling sticks. And this type of model (without platform/foundation) has a lot of entropy in it. Things naturally fall apart when others leave and start their own. That's why most agencies only get to 20-30 people. Most don't build in the technologies, platforms, proprietary intel, depth of talents, and layers of opportunity to allow people to enter and thrive and stay - and then not leave and take others and compete effectively with you. So first I would say understand what you want to end up with. If you want to grow into a larger firm, better start thinking about processes, procedures, platforms, tech, scale, talents, etc.

Know Who You Are - You've got to come to terms with who you are inside. Are you comfortable going wide and general or do you really enjoy going deep and technical. Are you the technician or consultant that thrives on working on a problem and delivering a solution? Or are you at your best delegating to others, prioritizing their work, and building up moral so others can achieve success (which ultimately serves the company and you as well). The sooner you come to terms with which you are the better and easier it will be.

If you want to be an owner/operator, then decide which parts (of which their are many) you need to succeed and build and grow toward that. It might make sense to get experience in a large firm so you have "memory muscle" for building up into large consultancies. Maybe you have enough experience to figure it out without. Either way, decide what you need, begin to put it in place, and see that future "true north" as your goal. Then work toward your goal and bring others around you, lock down processes, think about scale as you consider tech, etc.

Going From One Person to More - If you are your own one person consultancy now and might want to either add people or increase billings and rate to make more money, here's some ideas:

(1) Take 30 minutes to draft a personal doc and outline the problems you want to solve for others and then your answer (services, solutions) to those set of problems. Include the problems you can actually solve, explain specifically to yourself what you do to help others, and rethink your approach to delivering value and capturing marketshare and money.

(2) With your problems to solve clearly articulated and in mind, begin to visualize your ideal prospect or client persona. Start to reach out to them and blog about how you can help them with specific problems - their problems. If you are aren't sure, reach out and meet with a few dozen of your ideal prospects and ask them what their problems are. Point here is to lock in on the right prospects and their real problems - not your ideas about who they are and what they struggle with. Get real laser focused. Know who it is, what it is, and then speak to them clearly with insights that are relevant and useful. This will build up your credibility and begin to position you as expert-level.

Which brings me to money. On your next website do something different. Use Asana + Harvest to understand clearly how much time you invest in building up a website. Give yourself a rate - and if your websites are good then you should be between $100/hr and $175/hr or more. Then add up the hours invested and multiply by your rate. I bet you are charging way too low. If you are at $25-50 per hour you should immediately go to $100 or more. Push the fear aside. Just do it.

When you are are focused on a specific type of prospect, and clearly understand their problem to solve, and have aligned your solution/answer to solving that problem, then you become worth whatever money the prospect believes is required to solve that problem.

After you solve those issues above, begin to focus on the work that fits your bill rate. This means you will need to go from $2000 websites to $20,000+ websites. You might need to value your creativity and brand/marketing abilities. Or you might decide to focus efforts around helping companies use websites to generate more leads. Or you might leverage tech and help them integrate tech into websites. All three will move you away from building standard brochure-type websites. Also, if you prospect for larger deals, talk and write about larger problems to solve, and start to say no to smaller deals - then you will find yourself going from $2000 websites to deals that are 2-3-4x larger in short order.

Trust the process. Start at the beginning and set one month to work through the above. You won't regret it. The reason you are doing $2000 deals is because that is what you are getting. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to "earn more than $2000 per website" you will need to be the change. You started your question correctly with "I want to be able to give value to the clients...". You will back into the right answer if you take the time to connect a few dots.

Right Prospect + Right Problem + Right Structure + Right Deal

When you focus on the right kind of prospect, understand their real problems, focus on the larger problems (which often mean more time/resources required to solve them), align your answer to their larger problems, speak to your target prospects (in person and blog) about how to solve their larger problems, value your time and correctly, bill at the right rate for all your time,...when you do that, you will start to earn more.

Doing this will also give you the focus and credibility and visibility to open yourself to others bringing you into their deals.

Hope that helps. - cm

I wouldn't start with funding. If you haven't already started, I would begin by creating a basic function MVP product and introduce it to 35-50 or so potential buyers and get initial validation. They might give you the necessary feedback to improve and focus or pivot into a winner. By keeping them in the conversation you can draw them into funding the new business. That's how Quibb - and so many others - got started. If you already have your business up and running, I'd consider bringing in a respected industry co-founder (and ask that person to fund), or ask friends/family to help out with a reasonable rate loan.

The biggest challenge when trying to convert comes at the very beginning when you decide to create a solution to serve a need or solve a problem or pain. Get that part right and everything else is a whole lot easier.

The issue is "relevance" - actually being able to solve the real pain or problem and be seen as a viable option. If you have a solution that meets a real need, and if you are speaking to the correct "personas" (DM/buyer, evangelist, end user, etc.), and if you have connected and moved the dialog along through the funnel (in you MAS or campaign, or other), then there should be low friction and lead to transaction.

Being relevant, useful, and engaging in dialog all help to convert. It might need an extra push with limited offers, promos, add-on features.

I've led Marketing as VP/Marketing or CMO for multiple firms and have been tasked with gaining paid subscriber. Some of the best advice I've found comes from a great book called "Traction" by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. The entire book is dedicated to answering your question in detail - and they break down each channel by chapter.

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