Successful serial entrepreneur on monsters, innovation mindset and fame

A successful serial entrepreneur speaks about the real power of fame.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

A monster under your bed is nothing to fear. At least that's what Jeff Taylor discovered. Each evening he lovingly tucked his children into their beds, only to return to reassure them there were no monsters under their beds. Because the monster was surprisingly lurking under his own bed instead.

Taylor retired restless one evening amidst the challenges of growing his start-up ad agency. "What would happen if advertising could become a digital bulletin board?" He turned the question over in his mind. The question was particularly provocative, given it was the early 1990's. No stranger to midnight musings, Taylor placed a notebook and a pen on his bedside table in hopes of insomniac inspiration. At 4 a.m., he awoke to a monster of an idea. "What would happen if there were a monster bulletin board for job postings?"

Taylor wiped the sleep out of the corners of his eyes and jotted down the idea.  And then his mind started reeling. What if….?  Taylor jumped out of bed like a man on a mission and headed to the nearest coffee shop.  His fingers flew across the keys in a caffeinated craze. "The Monster Board may be the kindest monster to ever appear to someone in a dream," Taylor jokes and laughs as he recalls the journey to become, as he calls it, "Chief Monster."  He sketched the monster logo himself by hand, drawing inspiration from his kids' love of dinosaurs. A bigger-than-life idea deserved a bigger-than-life logo, or so his reasoning went.  His investors and his wife at the time, by contrast, saw a strategy to become extinct. "My investors told me Monster was a distraction," he recalls, shaking his head. "People often ask me to define what it means to be an entrepreneur. When everyone around you thinks you're crazy. You still believe in your idea, and you're willing to act on it regardless of what others think. That's what it means to be an entrepreneur."

Taylor lived with the daily reality of creating his own monster. Literally. "The logo I designed took forty-five minutes to download," he chuckles. "The public wouldn't tolerate that now, but these were the early days of digital. Every experience was novel. The Monster of 1994 - that became Monster.com in 1999 - was the first public job search site on the Internet. And we were the first public resume database in the world. We were creating the bleeding edge. We were digital first before anyone had heard of digital."

Amidst the ensuing setbacks, successes and stratospheric rise, Taylor discovered the real power of fame. "FAME is actually an acronym," he reveals to Karen Mangia, VP of Customer & Market Insights at Salesforce, during their virtual visit. "FAME is my personal philosophy I share with every aspiring entrepreneur and intrapreneur. And FAME is my mantra now as the General Manager/Chief Customer Officer at Principles, A Ray Dalio Company."

Anyone can find FAME following Taylor's model:

  • F: Think like a Free Agent.
  • A: Train like an Athlete.
  • M: Prepare like a Marketer.
  • E: Engage like an Entrepreneur.

"The opposite of FAME is also an acronym," he cajoles.  "I call it LAME:  Least Amount of Effort. And would you rather surround yourself with FAME or with LAME? My ad agency had 33 employees at its peak. Monster.com had 8,700 employees at its peak and over one million job postings. Monster remains the single most important decision of my life."

The future of work is Taylor's lifelong work, and he's constantly chasing a creative horizon he hopes never to reach. "The future is ours to create.  That's what excites me most," he exclaims. "Innovation is a mindset. And every business needs to decide whether your goal is to be an innovator, a fast follower or a low cost provider. Know the difference. Be purposeful about your choice. And, if you want to be an innovator, pick a big market. Pick a big idea. Don't work so hard on something so small."

In the second part of our series, Taylor reveals his "secrets to running a life and living a business," where he looks for creative inspiration and the power of principles.

This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Her work focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and she regularly works with executives, managers, and future leaders at companies of all sizes globally. Mangia launched two new books in 2020: Listen Up! How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise and Working From Home:  Making the New Normal Work For You -- both from Wiley. Mangia has been featured in Forbes and regularly writes for Thrive Global and ZDNet. Committed to diversity and inclusion, Mangia serves on her company's Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. Mangia is a TEDx speaker and the author of Success With Less, a book that chronicles her own personal journey through a life-threatening health crisis. Mangia's high-impact keynotes help organizations to access the future of work via innovative insights around the voice of the customer.

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