The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “After experiencing the benefits of location and schedule freedom, I couldn’t imagine how other people could live without it” with Kean Graham and Candice Georgiadis

After experiencing the benefits of location and schedule freedom, I couldn’t imagine how other people could live without it. While I learned later that it isn’t for everyone, there are still a large subset of the population that could take major benefit from this additional freedom. By the time I was financially able to hire other full-time team members, I was also motivated to provide the benefits of location and schedule freedom. At the beginning of 2013 when I hired our two first full-time team members, that was the tipping point to starting this social impact movement.

As part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kean Graham. Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 120+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $20M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 9 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.

Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:

I will work and travel when I want, where I want.

I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. When I came back to Canada I was set to build my skills and come up with my big business idea. To do this, I made websites and tried out affiliate marketing. I grew important digital marketing and basic coding skills to bolster my capabilities and come up with that big idea.

A big reason for my early success was that I was malleable in that we focused on results and less about the internal business early on. My goal was to achieve measurable revenue increases for businesses. This was originally going to be achieved by the below offerings:

– SEO

– Social media optimization

– Analytics consultation

– Ad inventory optimization

– Customer usage model optimization

I quickly found out that the greatest opportunity to grow measurable revenues was via ad inventory optimization. Rather than sticking with all offerings I focused on the offering that got the best results and only targeted online businesses that earned revenues via display advertising.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

A digital nomad friend and I were on a safari in Okavango, Botswana during our digital nomad trip about a week ago. We were lucky enough to come across a pride of mother lions and their cubs feasting on a water buffalo they killed the previous night. The driver brought us dangerously close to them as you can see from this photo. As we got close, the lions stared right at us and got into pouncing position. One even got up and starting pacing.

We knew if we made any sudden movements or sounds, we could become lion lunch. I had my phone in my pocket and I couldn’t remember if the ringer was off. I was one impromptu client call away from being the next kill for that pride. Luckily, I had no calls during those moments that felt like hours and we got away safely.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started the business it was challenging and exciting. I was able to break-even by month five. My first client was an employer that laid me off a year before. I offered them a percentage of the ad revenue increase and was able to make them additional millions. At the time, I was a one-person company and communicated myself as such. Since I communicated the business as just myself, they looked at my company as just an ex-employee. As a result, when I was increasing their ad revenues by over 300% and earning strong commissions, the executives saw this as unjust that an ex-employee was making 4x more than what he used to earn. As a result, they strong-armed a deal with much less commission.

Ultimately, my mistake was not communicating my business as something bigger than just myself. I could have avoided that re-negotiation because it’s reasonable for a larger company to receive large commissions to pay for overhead, technology and employees. Ever since that mistake, I always communicated my business as “we” rather than “I” even when it was just me out of habit!

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

MonetizeMore is one of the pioneers of location independent businesses. We have proven that it is possible to run an effective business without any offices and over 120 full-time team members. Location and schedule freedom has shown to be competitive advantages for MonetizeMore in an industry where that is rarely offered. As a result, MonetizeMore has been able to acquire incredible talent, minimize turnover, out-innovate competitors and better tailor to international publisher partners.

We can already see effect of the influence of location independent business pioneers like MonetizeMore has had on the technology industry. The trend of remote working has been trending as expectations for in-office work has decreased. I believe in the next ten years when someone mentions a new business, the next common question is: “Is that business location dependent or independent?”

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Many of our team members have changed their lives thanks to the location and schedule freedom that MonetizeMore offers. Some have been able to move to that small town they always wanted to live in that otherwise wouldn’t have career opportunities, others have been able to spend more time raising their children while being career ambitious and others have traveled the World while working with MonetizeMore.

If I would pick one particular person, it would have to be our COO, Julio Monzon. He has been with MonetizeMore for six years now. A few years ago, he gave up his permanent address in Austin, Texas to live a fully nomadic lifestyle. He travels the World 12 months of the year chasing the Sun. He has taken location and schedule freedom by the reigns and engineered his ideal lifestyle. He has improved his health by going to Maui Thai training camps in Thailand, has expanded his circle of friends around the World, has had some amazing travel experiences and most of all, lives a more fulfilling and free lifestyle that wouldn’t be possible at a traditional company. He has taken this even further and inspired others to take advantage of location and schedule freedom.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

It has always been my dream to live a location and schedule free lifestyle. That was the reason I started MonetizeMore. Once I was able to break-even and then live from the income coming from my business by month 10, I went on my first trip while running MonetizeMore. This was a big point because I validated it to myself that it was possible and I could finally realize the fruits of all my hard work.

After experiencing the benefits of location and schedule freedom, I couldn’t imagine how other people could live without it. While I learned later that it isn’t for everyone, there are still a large subset of the population that could take major benefit from this additional freedom. By the time I was financially able to hire other full-time team members, I was also motivated to provide the benefits of location and schedule freedom. At the beginning of 2013 when I hired our two first full-time team members, that was the tipping point to starting this social impact movement.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Society and particularly business leaders still possess biases against remote working. This stems from a lack of trust, a status quo bias and the need for visual validation. These biases are strong but will fade away with new generations that have grown up in this digital age.

Business leaders can accelerate this change to enable their team members to realize the benefits of location and schedule freedom by being more trusting of their team members, letting go of biases and the need for visual validation. Society could also be more open-minded towards remote working to recognize it as a viable method of working within companies.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

We have been spreading awareness of the possibilities and benefits of location and schedule freedom via the below channels:

Why I Work Remotely: Team members explain why they choose to work remotely and how it has changed their lives.

– Hiring: Over the years we have grown to a team of over 120 by posting on remote job boards like WeWorkRemotely, DynamiteJobs and FlexJobs.

– PR: We have been featured on many prominent publications because of our modern location independent mindset and the unique benefits our team gets from location and schedule freedom.

– Presentations: I have personally spread the word of location and schedule freedom benefits for the work lifestyle of our labor force via conferences speeches within Thailand, Canada and South Africa.

To help spread the message of the benefits of location and schedule freedom, social platforms can start by writing about it. There are many exciting businesses that are 100% location independent. The majority of the population are unaware of the trend towards location and schedule freedom. Spreading the word of this trend and why this is good for society on each social platform will accelerate the acceptance and growth of the trend.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Early Key Hire: I wish someone told me to hire our current CTO two years earlier. Our current CTO has done an incredible job resurrecting our technology stack and putting the technology in a position to achieve high levels of innovation.

If I were to hire our current CTO two years earlier, I would have been able to avoid a horrible business partnership and a Google account ban that costed over $2M. More importantly though, MonetizeMore would be two years ahead of where it is today. Our current CTO and CPO have done an incredible job catching up our technology to get MonetizeMore to be amongst the trailblazers in the industry. However, I could only imagine the lead MonetizeMore would have if we brought our CTO onboard two years earlier.

2. Be More Skeptical of Potential Partners: I am a very trusting person. While it has been advantageous for the most part, it has been a falter one particular time.

I partnered with a hot-shot programmer that came in with a lot of promise and delivered next to nothing. If I were more skeptical and thoroughly checked his references, including ones he didn’t provide, I would have been able to make a better decision and save the company a lot of costs and headaches.

3. Sell the Vision: When my company was young, it was tough to sell our offering. I had to find businesses that were willing to take a risk on a young company. I would have had an easier time selling if I sold “where we’re going” rather than “where we are”.

There was one online classified in particular that would have converted as a new client if I communicated the vision of the business. Inspiration of a grand vision can go a long way in terms of value perception especially when long-term B2B relationships are on the line.

4. Be Assertive When It Counts: I’ve always been a reasonable and friendly leader. While this can be great for creating a collaborative and happy work environment, it also can be a breeding ground for bad behaviour.

At the end of the day, I am the gate keeper for bad behaviour. If I let it slide, then that communicates to the team and that team member that, that type of behaviour is acceptable. This can become a slippery slope very quickly. I learned that when team members try to get away with bad behaviour that hurts the company, it’s important to be assertive to stop it in its tracks. That’s where the line is drawn in the sand and your team members will respect you for being assertive but professional.

5. Leverage Your Culture: When I started my business, the idea of cultivating a culture sounded so fluffy. Back then, I didn’t think that would be a good substitute for activities that directly affected deliverables.

As the team grew over the years, it became apparent that building a culture purposefully was very important. As a result, I spear-headed a company culture initiative and MonetizeMore has benefited since. Thanks to the culture we have built, evolved and leveraged, the company has been experiencing a powerful momentum which has propelled growth further than I ever imagined.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see a world with more female entrepreneurs. There seems to be a growing trend of more female entrepreneurs thanks to some incredible female-focused programs and inspiring female entrepreneurs. I would like to see this trend accelerate. The tech and entrepreneurial circles are too male dominated and I think the world is missing out as a result.

Becoming an entrepreneur is very empowering and it would be a shame if the high majority of people who took this empowering journey were still mostly men.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You will never write an extraordinary story until you realize you are the author”

This is an incredible quote because it enables me to enjoy my victories more and bounce back from my failures quickly. For victories, I know that even if there was a bit of perceived luck involved, it was my previous actions to inevitably lead to that event.

For my failures, I am able to learn from them immediately because I take responsibility and reflect on how I could have prevented the negative situation so that it never happens again. From there, I change a good thing into a bad thing by approaching the negative situation from a new clever angle. For example, we were disapproved by Google several years ago and lost millions as a result. We responded by improving our screening processes, diversifying our revenue streams and creating invalid traffic detection and suppression technology called Traffic Cop to prevent this issue from happening again. As a result, we have re-built the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Elon Musk has established himself as a symbol of the spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and success in the face of insurmountable odds. He is an inspiration for millions as well as myself.

If I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Elon over breakfast or lunch and pick his brain, I would be able to get some valuable business and life lessons. I have no doubt it would be a life changing conversation and hopefully he could learn at least one thing from myself.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: http://facebook.com/MonetizeMore

Twitter: http://twitter.com/monetizemore

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+MonetizeMorePosts/

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/company/monetizemore

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQI2U5c8n9bmEd_rv5K2s9g

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/monetize_more/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “After experiencing the benefits of location and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.