Get it right and strike it rich

Watch this short video first, take careful note of what Zuckerberg says and then read the article.

There is a lot to learn from watching this short video.

First, there’s the all-important lesson that everybody who “gets there” gets there the same way: by putting on their pants, or in this case gym shorts, one leg at a time.

Obviously, the scale and scope of Facebook has changed dramatically since the time of this interview.

New money, new expertise, and new ambition has poured in.

But look at where Mark Zuckerberg started.

He didn’t start out with the ambition to make billions of dollars. He also was not thinking about creating a service that would be so huge it would challenge even Google in traffic.

What did he focus on?

The answer is very simple and it’s the answer to everything: he focused on getting what was in front of his face at the moment right.

I detect no wild ambition, no intoxication with the fantasy of limitless riches, no rush to bring something to market ready or not.

Instead, I see a guy who just picked up his tools everyday, worked on his blueprint, and took pains to get it right.

I know this flies in the face of typical “get rich quick” seminar bullshit, especially the famous “shoot, ready, aim” method that students of a certain type of “guru” are encouraged to follow.

The truth is that nothing goes right the first time, but the idea that you can build a lasting success with a “sell first and get the quality right later” approach is a great way to fail.

That being said, it certainly is possible to package and sell things, even at high prices, that are not ready for market. You can even make money launching products, selling a lot of them, and then abandoning support for the product, which is another way of saying screwing your customers.

Yes you can do it, but it’s…

Obviously wrong. Obviously way too common.

Unfortunately, this approach has become the new normal in the Internet marketing education world, so much so that I find that some among the new generation of would-be educators don’t even realize there’s another way to do things.

This is bad for the marketplace, it’s very bad for people who are trying to learn Internet marketing, and it’s a stupid and shortsighted way of doing things.

Big spikes of income from episodic hyped up promotions of products that have no basis in reality does not make a business.

Businesses are built on selling products and services. Products and services that do what they say they are going to do and are supported and improved when they don’t.

“We wanted to make sure it was going to work before going any further with it.” – Mark Zuckerberg.

After getting a good results from a test at one school, he didn’t roll it out to the world. He tested it at just three schools.

After those three schools continued to prove the concept, then he rolled it out to 29 schools.

Then, he geared up to launch the service to schools around the world. Not the world. Just the world’s schools.

The right way
Note that when the subject of expanding “The Facebook” to cover the world, Zuckerberg considers the idea respectfully, but demonstrates no particular interest in it.

Does that mean he wasn’t a “possibility thinker?” That he didn’t practice positive thinking? That he didn’t have the intelligence to see the value of what he had?

No, no, and no.

He was working on exactly what he was supposed to be working at: getting what was in front of his face right.

I’m all for creative, open-ended, blue sky thinking. It’s where many of our best ideas come from, but when it comes to putting boots on the ground and rubber on the road, fantasy doesn’t cut it.

Long-term success requires engineering and engineering, to be successful, has to be as precise as possible and rooted in the real world.

Another example
Is this example of someone starting out with a definite but modest goal and step-by-step growing it into a massive success an anomaly?


Let’s look at the other 800 pound gorilla on the Internet, Google.

The founders of Google had a very simple original goal which was to improve what at the time was near- total and easy-to-manipulate crap (search engine results) into something reliable and worthwhile.

All they wanted to do was develop the technology and sell it to someone.

Had you known them and had you had $1 million back in 1997, you could’ve bought it from them because that was what they were willing to sell it for. The name of their product (in this case a set of algorithms)? “Backrub.” Yup, that was the original name that Google’s founders wanted to call their service.

They succeeded in the long term for the very same reason that every other major search service of the time is now in the financial toilet: Google focused  on getting it right while the other companies didn’t.

The owners of Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, Hotbot, and many others were OK with the obviously substandard results they were returning to their users. They were making money and that’s all that mattered to them. End result: today they are out of business or operating in greatly reduced circumstances.

By the way, Larry Page and Sergey Brin offered that deal – all the Google patents for $1 million – to the CEOs of every one of those companies and not a single one considered it seriously.

Then there is the web itself
Tim Berners-Lee, who wrote all the original code that the World Wide Web is based on, did it to solve a problem for a specific group of people.

In his case, his intended “market” was the community of particle physicists worldwide who needed a better way to keep up-to-date with experiments going on in their field. He focused on getting that right and happened to change the world in the process.

Then along came Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape), who at the time was an undergraduate working for $6.85 an hour in the physics lab at the University of Illinois. All he wanted to do was put an easy-to-use graphical interface on the World Wide Web which he first came across on his job.

Marc got someone to help him do it, Eric Bina, and together they focused on doing it right. Then they created versions for other operating systems and did that right too. Then Andreessen personally supported users without charge for program that he gave away free. Within a year or so, Mosaic had 1 million users.

All this – Netscape, Google, Facebook and even the Web itself – happened because the people involved focused on getting it right.

If there’s a venture anywhere on earth, large or small, that’s lasted and had any other foundation, let me know.

Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people have been educated to believe that Internet marketing is finding a “hook”, generating a ton of hype (often in coordination with other hypesters), and jamming as many sales down people’s throats as possible until the market wakes up and burns out.

What a travesty.

And besides being unethical, it’s stupid.

Try to find anyone who has had more than a few years run without blowing themselves up using this approach.

The average life span of a “I’m in a rush to get rich” Internet marketing guru is about two years from the time they’re “famous” to the time they’re despised. And though through to the power of momentum they may continue to make money, even “great” money, for a while afterwards, it always ends the same: reduced reputation, reduced prospects, reduced income.

Peter Drucker, arguably the most highly regarded business advisor of the last 100 years, put it best:

“The purpose of business is to create customers and to innovate.”

Nowhere in that definition did he include making as much money as you possibly can with as little effort and as little concern for your customers as possible.

Even under the best of circumstances, doing business right is tough. It’s possible to do everything right and have a reversal that takes out the game. But one thing’s for sure: if your focus is anything other than getting it right – not with lip service, but in reality – then you’ll be building a foundation on sand.

The good news is that the number of so-called business people who understand this principle, let alone live it, are so few and far between that in most fields there is rarely any truly serious competition.

P.S. I don’t know what it’s going to take to drain the ethical swamp that Internet marketing (and many other industries) have descended into in the last several years.

Our recent contribution to the effort has been to bring to print a previously private manuscript by former Libertarian presidential candidate (1996 and 2000), author, publisher and business owner, the late Harry Browne.

Many know his classic book “How I Found Freedom In and Unfree World.”

Few people know that Browne also conducted trainings for business people as well. One of his most important works – on the real art of selling and business building – never made it into print.

Now it has and it’s worth a look.


– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

About Liquidity (2005)
Warning: Genius at Work

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20 Responses to Get it right and strike it rich

  1. Alex Murphy September 15, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Thanks for the post Ken. I plan focusing on what’s in front of me and getting it right the first time. The best way to create customers is to his them what they want. Cheers!

  2. Steven Washer September 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Well, that was a breath of fresh air in this over-heated, under-ventilated echo chamber. And how different the reality of Zuckerberg the entrepreneur from Zuckerberg the movie character. They couldn’t be further apart.

    Thanks for posting this!

  3. John Jaworski September 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Hey Ken, Great stuff, lots of lessons to be learned whenever we take the time to look backwards, sadly to many of us focus on the new whiz bang stuff and forget to look back at our own and others success patterns. Great Lessons!

    I applaud your initiative and focus @Alex… just remember that we RARELY get it right the first time, it’s only with testing and tweaking and focus that we get it right – hopefully the most important time! 🙂

    Thanks Ken, you have always been a great teacher and mentor.


  4. Ken McCarthy September 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Getting it right the first time is nice, but it’s not quite the point. Very few worthwhile things are right the first time.

    The game is sticking with it and having an attitude of continuous improvement, NOT “OK, this is good enough, let’s go on to the next thing.”Being in it for the long haul. Not a “dump and run” attitude.

    You picked up on something Zuckerberg said that I didn’t highlight in my comments. He was clear that he didn’t know what his customers wanted (he didn’t assume he knew), so he paid attention to continuously learning.

  5. Dr Clari September 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi Ken!
    I’ve been following you for several years and feel rewarded with every encounter of your teaching.
    Thank you for your guidance, your willingness to pass on accuracy rather than “fluff” and a continual broadening of our space and time.
    A pleasure!
    Dr Clari

  6. Donna Maher September 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head, Ken, in several of your points made. I always enjoy your “take” on things. I’ve been the victim of those who develop products, sell them to me and others, and then dump them and run to the next big idea… leaving the ones of us who trusted him to eat the dust (and be out several hundred dollars). It’s not a fun place to be at all.

    I develop my businesses based on the Golden Rule and just wish all of the others would do the same. I know you do (and a few others) but most sadly, do not. It’s no wonder that trust has become a HUGE issue on the net.

    Mark didn’t realize the goldmine he had in the beginning, and it’s a good point to focus on making what you’re working on better and better instead of jumping on the next big thing that comes along.

    Thanks for sharing that ‘ancient’ video and your take on it, because it gives all the ‘little guys’ like me a lot more hope for a brighter future!


  7. John Breese September 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    This has got to be one of the richest contributions to the anti-hype marketing movement to date.

    Ken, please check your inbox, I’ll be sending you a PDF of a 100-year-old marketing book I think Internet marketers of all experience levels really should take a close look at.

    Thanks for writing this piece…hopefully it will inspire some people to take a breath, slow down and be a little more patient.

  8. Suzy Weiss September 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm #


    As usual great video and great post.

    What I like best about your approach is that you challenge me to ‘think’ rather than to buy in and conform.

    Many thanks for that…

    In addition, to the comments that you’ve already made here is what I ‘got’ from the video:

    A simple idea that is interesting enough that people would want to participate and use it.
    Make it Useful
    Make sure it worked… test small.
    Choose ‘qualified’ prospects to test on (schools with good online communities)
    Based upon results scale up if successful.
    The Goal: make a community that mirrored a real community.
    Making a difference and making it really cool.

    In thinking about these concepts, 2 other people in non internet industries come to mind that totally took over their Markets by offering a better user experience.

    Steve Jobs (Apple, Next, Pixar, Apple)

    Oprah Winfery (Harpo, O Magazine, OWN)

    Not bad models for success.

    Suzy Weiss
    Dating Coach For Women Over 40

  9. Orestes September 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Hi! Ken,

    Thanks for the great post and the very wise advice on how to do things right
    that last.Also thank you so much for the book “The Secret of Selling Anything”
    which I´m reading for the second time and is my second favourite book after
    the System Secret.

    Wish a great Sunday!

  10. Mike Hartrich September 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Hello Ken,

    Thanks for the post. There is way too much hype and scam in the Internet marketing world. It’s the get-rich-quick mania on steroids. I remember all too well the blizzard of must-have products, the promises of easy riches etc. Now that I’m on the other side of the Internet Abyss I can laugh about it.

    It really does take time to develop an idea into a prototype, then test the prototype, then refine it, develop it, and after all that take it one step further.

    I’m a builder and my online construction guild is for builders, trades people, suppliers professionals. These are generally conservative people. Most are technophobic and also resistant to change.

    I’ve spent two years developing the local site. It is now successfully established. Now it’s time to expand this local alliance network, slowly, to the adjacent areas. I’m building the guild to provide real value. It has to work in a very tough economy. That’s the only way to earn loyalty.


  11. Chris Ruane September 19, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    You are so right. We need more of this type of article/post !

    The IM arena is just a monster that got out of control, with the unethical burning the the naive and unsuspecting person.

    Still, the reason it got to this is that get rich slowly and surely had no appeal vs lying on the beach in the sun while somehow (employees apart) everything took care of itself !

    Just the world we live perhaps, edifying those with no real talent for anything other than flavour of the moment.

  12. horny hot September 19, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Great post!

  13. Barry Friedman September 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Great article and video, Ken!

    I started out my juggling act at Renaissance festivals around the country. Soon it was television, opening acts, then headlining at top end corporate events around the world.

    When I was wearing tights in Kenosha, WI in 1982 I never imagined that one day I’d be making great money, riding in limos, flying first class, and performing at Sales Conferences for Fortune 100 companies (including Google! – come on Facebook 🙂

    I worked on my craft. I worked on my business. I was authentic and always prepared for the next time I’d get ‘lucky’.

    I have applied this same practice to my online businesses. First a modest membership site teaching entertainers the business of show business ( and now I am half way through my first run at a higher value (and ticket) product – a Group Coaching Program for entertainers. I’m certainly focused on the NON SEXY parts of the business because I know that is where the change happens.

    Thanks for all your training over the years, Ken. My time at The System continues to inform and direct my choices, and my teaching.


  14. Barry Friedman September 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Oh, and after listening to his interview I know why he chose the word “like” to be the word we use on Facebook to praise a comment 🙂 He sounds more like my 15-year old nephew than what I think of when I think successful billionaire business guru 🙂

    Like, ya know?

  15. Ray Nangle September 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Hi Ken
    great post….loved the moral….just keep focused on the next step and get it right and provide a better solution to an existing problem.

  16. Ryan Nagy September 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Thanks for a thought provoking video. The times in life when I have gotten off track are the times when I have done something “just for the money” or for some other external reason related to wanting “approval.”

    That being said, I do not read too much into the Facebook example. It suffers from what I would call the survival bias. We only analyze the successful examples that we can see. For every success there are 1000’s of failures. How many of those failure used a similar strategy to Zuckerburg and did not survive? Quite a few I would guess.

    I’m not arguing against what you wrote. I’m just noting that there are limitations to what what we know.

    cheers! – Ryan

  17. Fred Moore September 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    First time to this site, I actually came here because of Barry up there!

    I love the whole way of thinking; “let’s make this the best it can be”. Simple, easy and smart. How many business start off with the idea “let’s not focus on making money right now…”?

    What’s the old saying “build a better mousetrap…”. Too many products out there that were just thrown together to make a buck! How many drugs are released every year only to be recalled later after people die from them?

    Quickly will make you some money. Quality will give you customers!

  18. Nick Benson September 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Great post Ken.

    Maybe it is the Irishman in me but; I have always stood back and wondered about people who believe in building businesses based on a ‘get-rich-quick’ modal.

    I always found it easier to simply follow a straight line in business. Do the best you can, produce a great product that people want to buy, keep improving it and making it better (and always over deliver! ) And it is always much easier to sell more to people who have already purchased from you and who are happy with your product/ service. I honestly do not see how any one can get this wrong or try to short cut the process.

    And that is what it is… business is always a process. Not a product.

    But again, these are just the ramabling of an Irishman.

    Thank you again for a great post, that really puts IM in its place.

  19. Robert September 20, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    Much appreciated for the information and share!

  20. metformin online October 3, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    Great post I must say. Simple but yet interesting. Wonderful work!

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