June 14, 2012

Marc Cenedella – “Start Right Now!”

“An entrepreneur is somebody who says, ‘Look, I know the world is saying they don’t need this business yet, but I’m going to go prove to them that they do need it.'”

Marc Cenedella, CEO and Founder of TheLadders

While in New York City recently I visited Marc Cenedella, Founder & CEO of TheLadders.  TheLadders is the leading job-matching service for career-driven professionals in the USA and UK.

Marc is one of those rare triple-threat leaders — super smart, charismatic and passionate.  I’m always inspired after speaking to him.

My main takeaways:

  • Entrepreneurs are, by nature, unreasonable people because that’s what it takes to start a business.
  • The three most important questions for every entrepreneur are: “Is my service live yet?  Do I have users yet?  Am I getting paid yet?”  If the answer of any of those questions is “no” then you’re failing.
  • Stop watching this video and start your business right now! (Good advice for me :-D)

Help me to show Marc our appreciation by tweeting here!  Follow Marc on Twitter at @cenedella.


Chris Harvey: Hi, I’m Chris F. Harvey. I’m here in New York City in the
office of Marc Cenedella, the founder and CEO of TheLadders.com. Hi, Marc.Marc Cenedella: Hi, Chris.Chris: TheLadders.com is the most successful and largest professional
jobs website in the U.S. and the U.K. Marc is also a very
passionate guy who has a lot of great advice for budding
entrepreneurs. It’s good to see you again, Marc.Marc: Very good to see you.

Chris: Okay. So one thing that I read, that you had written, was that
it takes a special kind of person to be an entrepreneur.
What did you mean by that?

Marc: What you have to realize is that the world has decided that they
don’t need whatever business it is that you’re deciding to
start. If the world had decided that they needed it, it
would already exist. So the special person it takes is
somebody who is going to say, “Look, I know the world is
saying they don’t need this business yet, but I’m going to
go prove to them that they do need it.”

Chris: You also said that someone who starts a business should be

Marc: Yeah, it’s very unreasonable, because the world’s decided, hey, they
don’t need your business yet, and you’ve got to convince
them that they need your business now. It’s a very
unreasonable thing to tell the world that, despite all of
the hundreds of millions of people who have gone before
you, they all missed this business opportunity. They all
misunderstood the chance. They overlooked the opportunity
and the advantage here, and that I, the entrepreneur, have
figured it out. That’s an unreasonable thing to say. It’s a
very unreasonable thing to say, but that’s what
entrepreneurialism is.

Chris: Did you feel unreasonable when you started TheLadders.com?

Marc: I not only felt unreasonable, everybody told me I was unreasonable.
When I . . . so literally, when I started The Ladders in
2003, I had people tell me people who are very senior and
professional are never going to use the Internet to manage
their careers. That’s just not going to happen. The
Internet is too low-class for them.

That’s crazy. It’s completely crazy, but that’s what people
believe. That’s what a lot of our customers actually
believed in the early years, as well. My unreasonableness
was . . . it’s obvious that with the penetration of
broadband, it’s obvious with people growing up on the
Internet, they’re going to use the Internet to manage their

Chris: It’s obvious now, but maybe back then not so much. I read a
little bit about your founding story in The Intelligent
Entrepreneur. It said that there were a lot of people who
said, “Oh, that’ll never work, Marc. It’ll never work.”

Marc: Yeah, if you have a good business idea, most people should say it
won’t work. If everybody says, “Hey, that’s pretty obvious.
Gee, of course it’s going to work,” it’s very likely that
somebody else has already thought of your idea and that
they’re already out there competing against you. Part of it
is really doing something that’s new for customers and new
for your users that hasn’t been done before.

Chris: You also said that there’s a very special way to know if you’re
failing as an entrepreneur, or actually a couple of
different ways. How do you know?

Marc: Well, it’s not that special. It’s just, have you started yet?

Chris: Okay.

Marc: So here, in New York City, I go to a lot of these entrepreneur
breakfasts where you meet with all the entrepreneurs and
people starting up businesses. I’m sitting next to this
very nice woman a couple of years ago, and I looked up her
story again because I knew that you were coming by, just to
see what the finish of it was. She told me this great
business idea. It was a great business idea to do this
particular type of advice, and I loved the idea. I said,
“That’s fantastic. Wow, that’s really amazing. What’s the
URL so I can go check it out?”

“Well, we don’t quite have that up yet.” She told me,
“We’ve been studying it for the last 12 months, and we
think in another 12 months, we’ll be live.” I said, “Wow.
That’s unfortunate. You really should be live now.” She
goes, “Well, do you have any advice for me?” I said, “Yeah.
Put down your fork. Get up from your chair. Leave this
breakfast. Go to your office. Lock you and your whole team
behind the door. Order in pizza or noodles or whatever it
is you’ve got to order in, and don’t leave until you have
the site live. Once you have this idea, once you have this
passion, it’s really super important that you go and you
get it live and you get it going.”

So how you can tell if you’re failing is if you’re not live

Chris: Okay. You also had a couple of others. Not live . . .

Marc: So if you’re not live yet, if you don’t have customers, and if you
don’t have paying customers, you know that you’re failing.
Ask yourself, “Hey, is my site live yet? Is my business up
and running yet?” If the answer is no, you’re failing.

Do I have users? Are people coming into the store or are
people coming to the website? If the answer is no, you’re
failing. Do I have paying customers yet? Do I have people
paying for either advertising or to use the site or to buy
things from my store? If the answer is no, you’re failing.

You have to realize that you need to have the mentality
that you’re okay with, “I know going to be failing until I
get to that point, but I’m going to do everything I can.
I’m going to focus every day on how do I stop failing in
each of those three ways?”

The wonderful young woman sitting next to me at breakfast
wasn’t focused on “How do I stop failing?” She was focused
on some other things: “How do I do the design? How do I
keep my VCs happy? How do I make this perfect in my head?”
None of that matters relative to “Am I live? Do I have
users? Am I getting paid?”

Chris: Okay. And, Marc, I once read that you wrote that you had a
pretty good sense for who’s going to be successful and who
might not be.

Marc: Yeah, look, what you have to remember is that the world doesn’t want
your business. The world hasn’t decided, “Let’s help the
entrepreneur create their business.” And so what you have
to realize is that if you’re going to be reasonable, if
you’re going to be rational about it, if you’re going to be
accepting of your fate, if you’re going to be
understanding, then you’re going to fail because the world
is going to conspire in every different which way to not
give a hoot about your business. So it’s the unreasonable
people, it’s the irrational people, it’s the people who’ve
got a passion that leads them to say, “I don’t care if this
business doesn’t exist. I don’t care that the world hasn’t
decided it doesn’t want my business yet, I’m going to
change their mind. I don’t care if you say it’ll never
happen.” Yeah, you’ve got to go.

Chris: Okay.

Marc: You’ve got to have that passion and lead with it.

Chris: Good. And, Marc, I’m sure our viewers got a lot of value from
this short interview.

Marc: Yeah.

Chris: Do you have any last minute words for our viewers?

Marc: Yeah. Why are you still watching this? How come you’re not off
starting your business? You should be leaving right now and
starting your business. How come you’re still here? Go.
Succeed. Thrive.

Chris: Thanks, Marc.

Marc: Thanks very much.