Getting noticed by a person of influence to create a brand and hiring the right remote staff are what Haris Reis talks about in this episode. Haris is a two-time national award-winning entrepreneur, two-time national bestselling author, keynote speaker, and digital marketer. With all his achievements, he owes a huge part of his success to the famous Gary Vee. He recounts how he was able to stand out and earned Gary’s attention and how he was able to start his own company. He also talks about his brand, how it works, and how he goes about hiring people and building his team. You will surely learn more from him, including some tips on how to work with people remotely.
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My guest is Haris Reis. Haris, how are you doing?
I’m super well.
For those who don’t know you, you are a two-time national award-winning entrepreneur, two-time national bestselling author, keynote speaker and a digital marketer. You were previously a co-founder of Changing Lanes International which helps authors, speakers and coaches build their brands online. You took the company to a six-figure business in ten months. You’re also previously a growth hacker at VaynerMedia, building Gary Vee’s personal brand. He’s built SyncSumo, a SaaS Solution with customers in 30-plus countries. He runs a consulting firm which generates millions of dollars for clients’ social media agency and has a handful of personal clients as well. We’re going to talk all about that. What were you like growing up? Were you a rebel or a straight A-student? Did you know you want to be an entrepreneur?
I was the complete opposite of a straight A-student. I was born in Germany. My parents came over from Bosnia to get me and my sister a better life. The typical immigrant story. They worked hard all the time. I had everything I wanted but they’re always trading time for money. My sister did well in school. She would cry if she ever got a 99% because she didn’t get 100%. If I ever got a 60%, I was dancing with joy because I guessed over half of the things right. It’s hard to do. I could never pay attention to class. The instructors weren’t teaching valuable things. I was always working on something on the side, some type of business. I was trying to figure out how to drive traffic. I was trying to figure out who I can talk to, who can teach me from their own personal lessons. I was figuring out how I can get to the people who are crushing it at a high level where I want to crush it. How do I get around those people? How do I learn from them? I was doing different things growing up. I was trying to figure out how to not trade my time for money.
We want to hear how you got in with Gary Vee. He’s a big name in the industry. I’m sure a lot of people want to work with him. How did you get that in?
I get asked that all the time. I literally went to a Traffic & Conversion Summit in San Diego. I bought their basic package which was $500 at the time. A week or two later, I got an email saying, “Guess who’s going to be the keynote speaker? Gary Vee. Upgrade to VIP if you want.” I want to talk to Gary. I had this weird hunch that I can do it. He was blowing up. People knew him. He was everywhere. It wasn’t like I got to know him early before everyone in the world knew him. I got in when everyone knew him.
I’m in a room full of 5,000 or 6,000 smart marketers. I can’t stand out being smart or hardworking because everyone there is hardworking and smart. How do I stand out? There are 6,000 people. I buy VIP, all that means is you get a table to write on. There’s no special speaker meeting, you just get a table to write your notes on. Instead of being in a pool of 6,000 people, I’m in the pool of 2,000. How do I stick out in the 2,000? I kept thinking and said, “I’m going to send Gary emails.”
I watched every piece of content he’s ever put out all the way back to one library of someone to see if I can find something. I found his email and I said, “I’m going to email him every day.” I have no idea if it’s right or wrong. I used a tool called an Email Dossier to see if the email address is still valid. I typed it in and it said valid. I emailed it and hopefully I get a response. I started to email him every day at 6:00 AM New York City time. I live in Nebraska so that’s 4:00 AM here. I didn’t want to automate because I didn’t want the algorithm to mess up my emails. I had to get up at 4:00 AM, write an email and go back to bed. I did that for weeks. Guess how many responses I got from Gary? Not a single one but I kept doing it because I knew he was working out at that time.
If I wanted to get in front of him, that was the best time because either in between a workout or a set, he might be checking his email. In the middle of the day when he’s going between meetings or calls, he’s probably not going to look in his inbox. That was my best guess. He was on the AskGaryVee Show. He said it doesn’t matter if you go to Harvard or Schmarvard, entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship. I bought one of those shirts. I changed my email to say, “Look out for me in the front and center of the Traffic &Conversion Summit. I’ll be sitting right in front of the stage in a blue Schmarvard shirt.” I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Traffic & Conversion, it’s crazy. People sprint to their chairs. The event comes around the corner. It’s the night before and I’m sitting there thinking, “I’ve been telling this man for weeks on end that I’m going to be there. I bought a shirt to stick out but what do I do? Tomorrow’s the day.”
I went to the event at 4:00 AM. I can’t sleep so I might as well go. I went there and one of the guys said, “What are you doing? The event doesn’t start until 9:00 AM.” I said, “What am I doing? I work here, I’m in AV. Why would I be here at 4:00 AM?” The guy thought I was part of the AV team and let me walk around. I didn’t want to mess up anything, but I couldn’t burn my AV guy. I went and touched all the cables and didn’t do anything because I didn’t want to mess up their huge production. I made it look like I was doing things for hours. I put my backpack down on the chair, placed my materials out on the table. Someone could just easily pick up my backpack and put it down. People are going to sprint in as soon as the doors open. At 8:00 AM, I spread out my things, went out and started networking with people. Come 9:00 AM, they opened the doors. It’s like bBack Friday except for digital marketers. Everyone is sprinting in the doors trying to get a good spot. Meanwhile, I’m walking in casually and picked my spot.
Gary gets on stage and goes, “Schmarvard, I see you.” I know he’s looking at the emails but what do I do? He’s speaking and I’m learning from his talk. I said, “How do I position myself?” At Traffic & Conversion, you don’t get to speak to the speakers like Richard Branson on a past one. We spoke, went to the greeting room, he was gone. That’s the way it works. “How do I get in between the stage and greeting room without doing something crazy?” I’ll try to snap a picture. As soon as he says, “Thank you, I’m out,” I’m going to get up there. I’ll say, “Gary, can I get a picture?” If I’m going to get a picture with him and act like I’m fumbling around trying to get my camera to load, I can talk for 30 seconds. I did just that. I was like, “I can’t get my app to load. Give me one second.” I finally got the picture, but in the meantime, I said, “Gary, I would love to come work for you in New York City. I’ll do it for free. I built this company and I’m still young.” I was 22 at that time. I was saying, “I have skills. Let me help crush it. I can bring your brand to a different level. Let me come and work.”
He said, “Email me and I’ll connect you to my guy. You’ve been emailing me, send another one. The guy’s name is Andy. He’s our brand director.” Andy’s interview lasted a whole two minutes but he kept interrupting me. He goes, “What are your strengths?” “I love digital.” “Cool.” “I can figure it out. That’s the least of my worries.” “You’re hired. You’ll start May 26th.” I said thank you and hung up the phone. I was excited to hear from HR. I also went, “What did I just do? I have to go to New York City in three months.” That’s the whole story of how I landed it. The first day was madness. It set the precedence. It was an internship. Hulk Hogan was the first meeting. I met Hulk and Gary’s yelling at him full on Gary Vaynerchuk-style. He goes, “Haris, what would you tell Hulk to do?” I say, “Listen here, Hulk.” Here I am this 21, 22-year-old telling Hulk Hogan what to do with marketing because Gary Vaynerchuk told me. It was a bit surreal at the moment. That’s the story.
What was it like working with Gary Vee? Give people a glimpse behind the scenes.
He’s exactly what he is on his videos. The one thing that has come to my attention with meeting so many different businesses these past couple years is how empathetic he is. He puts himself in your shoes. He had 900 people in his company at the time, I’m sure he has more now. He knows everyone on a first name basis. He can be in an elevator with someone who just joined the team. If it’s a ladder, they’re on the first pedestal but he knows their name. He’s like, “Rachel, how’s your day going? How’s the client coming?” She is in awe, “Gary Vaynerchuk, the CEO, is talking to me.” He’s an unbelievable guy, the way he understands people. He has that energy. As soon as he gets to the office, you know you have to be on your A-game. Behind the scenes, he’s a lot like in his videos except unbelievably empathetic and a great person.
Let’s talk about marketing. What’s working now? Give us some tactical stuff behind the scenes.
You can’t simply stand out by being smart or hardworking, but by doing something noticeable, impressive, and memorable.
Facebook, there are huge algorithms shifts. Learn how to use different ad sets and how to manipulate new algorithm. I don’t if you’re doing a lot of Facebook Ads?
I’m okay. The FreeeUp platform has lots of people that run Facebook Ads. I built FreeUp organically. We run a little bit to get freelancers to apply. I’m familiar with the space.
They have this huge algorithm shift that completely changed it. I had a tactic that worked like crazy. It was bringing in leads for $2 to $3. This is for a trucking company. Every lead that comes in and a trucker drives their trucks, that’s another $250,000 in revenue for them if that trucker stays on the team. If you get 40 or 50 of them, that’s several million. If I can get that lead at $3, that’s a great deal. I was doing splitting ad sets. I was running three ad sets at a time. I would see a winner and I can scale it by 10%. I will do that forever and it crushed. The algorithm shifted and that doesn’t work anymore. If you’re running $300 budget, three of them at $100 a day or you start off at $50, it won’t work as well. You have to start off with bigger budgets to see what ad will work and how it’ll do. You need to do the opposite now. Work on one big ad budget, then you can splinter off in the smaller ones once you know it converts. That’s what’s working now.
Is that working across different industries too?
Yes, every industry. I have trucking, personal brands like with Gary Vaynerchuk, my own brand that I’m growing. It works across every channel and it works the same.
You went from an intern working for Gary to your own agency. You’re hiring people. What has that process been like? What have you learned about hiring people and building a team for your own agency?
I can always teach people skills. You want them better than jockeying at the horse. I believe in people. If someone comes to me and I have that gut feeling that this person wants to do it for the right reasons, I want to bring them on my team. I outsource a lot to my home country in Bosnia as many other immigrants probably do. One kid’s dream is to work with Gary and build a big brand, but he doesn’t want his. He’s driven to build my brand. I brought him on with the team, I hired him. He’s going to manage all of my social media strategy. I know how to do it but now I’m teaching him how to. He’s growing it and learning with them because he wants to do it for the right reasons. Finding the right people and asking the right questions is huge in hiring. Anyone can send a resume. It’s like dating. You’ll put on your good fake act the first time but then over time, people can change. If you get to know somebody at core level, then you can see that they’ll succeed over the long run.
Any tips for working with people remote?
I have a project management tool called Trello. I send deadlines and communicate that way. I get on lots of Skype calls. I also use Loom. For SaaS products, we have to explain things. In Trello, I put the text comment in there. In my head, I know exactly what it’s supposed to look like. The developer does it and it’s not what I wanted. I said, “This is my fault. How can I fix it?” The way to fix it is you shoot videos. Loom videos, screen records, and you can walk people through exactly what you want. That way, they can have a video, text and images. The time difference when you’re sleeping, they’re working. You get up, it’s done right. Also, language barriers. A lot of people are offshore in the Philippines or any other big outsourcing country. If you have all three of those pieces and get that to the workers, it’s a lot better.
What’s it like running a software company? It is a lot of things that people don’t think about. Walk us through that.
Everything takes longer than you think it will. One little tweak is not one little tweak. If you don’t know code, hire someone that’s a business person that understands code. Being able to speak business and being able to understand code are two different worlds. If those don’t intertwine and understand each other, it’s going to be hard to grow fast. On a business perspective, “I want to make this one little feature. It’s simple. That’s all I want.” A developer says, “Okay.” They have to figure out all the intricacies on how to make it work. If you have someone who at least understands code at a high level, they don’t have to be one coding. You can set more realistic timelines before you even go to your devs. Explaining it with devs is a lot easier as well.
What else did we miss? What else is working in marketing?
Outsourcing everything is good. I used to have the mindset where if I make $100, keep the $100 and generate another $100. That’s not the way it works. If I make $100 and I can pay someone $70 to go do it for me again, I can make multiple $100 because I can do it on a different capacity. Before, I had the scarcity mindset where I can just keep it all to myself and keep more. It’s not the case at all. The more people you hire, the more things you can do. You can share the wealth too and not keep it all to yourself. That’s huge, hiring people so you can do more, being able to make that mindset shift works. If I can make $100, I can give $70 or $80 to outsource and get twice as good content going.
Where can people find out more about you and what are you most excited about?
I’m working on building my personal brand. I want to get to where you are. I think you have 10,000 followers on Instagram. I’m all about documenting. I’ve learned from Gary Vee, “You should document everything.” I’m documenting my journey from 500 to 50,000 followers in 365 days. I have three, four people on my team.
Tell people what your Instagram tag is.
Where else can people contact you?
My email is Business@HarisReis.com. That goes right to me. If you have any questions or anything like that, feel free to shoot me an email. Connect with me on Instagram, shoot me a DM. I’m happy to go over any other tactical advice that’s working.
Thanks so much for coming on.
Thanks for having me.
Haris Reis is a 2x national award-winning entrepreneur, 2x national best-selling author, keynote speaker, and a digital marketer. He previously was the co-founder of changing lanes international, which helped authors, speakers and coaches build their brands online. he took the company to a 6-figure business in 10 months!
He was also previously a growth hacker at Vayner media building Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal brand. he’s built syncsumo, a saas solution with customers in 30+ countries and now runs a consultancy which has generated millions of dollars for clients, a social media agency and has a handful of personal clients.
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