There’s an age-old debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. One of the reasons the answer is unclear is that many successful entrepreneurs start their own businesses after finding that they are unable to adjust to a traditional 9-to-5 job.
And while they do so as a last resort, they often find much better success. Take Tucker Max, the author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and a recent subject on my Growth Everywhere interview series.
Max was fired from several jobs and seemed to be going downhill fast. Then, he got his act together and created a profitable career writing humor; he now offers his services to professionals who want to leave their jobs to become publishers -- a highly valued service, since that industry is simultaneously undergoing slow growth and presenting new opportunities for aspiring authors and publishers.
Max’s rise to entrepreneurship
Max graduated from law school at Duke, but his career as a lawyer was short-lived when he got fired from his firm for spending his time sending inappropriate emails to pals.
He next worked in his dad’s business, but was fired from there, as well. His friends told him that he lacked the skills needed to succeed in law or business, but they believed he had a promising career as a storyteller. He had failed to gain traction the old-fashioned way -- soliciting publishers -- but he became remarkably successful after he published a series of stories on his own website. Publishers who had rejected him were suddenly flocking to him in the hopes of publishing his book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
That book became a major hit, with over two million copies sold, and Max went on to write two more best-sellers: Sloppy Seconds and Assholes Finish First. While he had discovered his calling as a humor writer, he believed there were other ways to capitalize on his talents, which is why he began to offer his consulting services to help time-starved professionals write and market their own books.
The role of personal branding in Max’s success
As a guy who spent several years getting a law degree only to end up unemployed, Max didn’t exactly have the most impressive reputation. He realized that he needed to reinvent himself in order to create a prosperous career as a writer. Here are the strategies he used to make this happen:
1. Max's branding strategy, or lack thereof
Unlike a major celebrity like, say, Kanye West, Max didn’t go out of his way to create a brand to garner attention. He created one that could evolve over time, rather than pigeonholing himself to the shenanigans in his stories. This was a good thing, because he (understandably) changed as he got older.
2. Max's content-marketing strategy
Content marketing was a major element of Max’s branding strategy. In our interview, he clarified the difference between using content as an end product versus as part of a marketing campaign. While there was undoubtedly a demand for his stories, he never would have monetized them if he hadn’t also used the content on his website to promote them.
3. Max's focus on being 'authentic'
Max related how he focused on being authentic: He shared the same stories that got him fired from his first job. He also proudly shared both the positive and negative statements from his critics. Being genuine made his stories that much more interesting.
4. Max's admittal of his mistakes
Max admitted that one of his biggest mistakes was being so headstrong when he was younger. He said that his younger self should have recognized that he didn’t know everything, and that he should have shut up and listened to smarter people.
Personal branding has played an important part in making Max’s books successful, but it was also a good springboard for his future business model.
The inception of 'Book in a Box'
Book in a Box -- a company that provides consulting services for aspiring writers who want to get their work published -- was the next major idea Max came up with.
Interestingly, though, it wasn’t exactly an idea that he set out to develop; it was something he just randomly shouted out during an interview. In fact, he didn’t even take it seriously until he got into a debate with an entrepreneur on one of his podcasts. Max mentioned that making a living as a publisher required a lot of hard work, but the viewer called him out by saying that entrepreneurs were meant to solve problems.
That discussion inspired him to actually execute the idea and, in doing so, he recognized a number of benefits that he could offer to up-and-coming publishers, including:
Hiring talented freelancers
Navigating the legal challenges
Max was immediately confident that Book in a Box would be a valued service to these publishers, and signed several clients right after the podcast aired. The results speak for themselves: According to Max, “even with a minimum starting package of $15,000 and very little marketing, Book in a Box was able to do $600,000 worth of business in its first six months.”
Want to hear even more about Max’s journey to success? Check out the full interview below, and don’t forget to leave a comment with something new you’ve learned below: