Entrepreneurship, Journalism, and Testifying Before Congress With Dan Grech

Dan Grech 13:52

 But yeah, no, no, I’m totally with you. I was just more worried about the other type of viral video, which is me saying something stupid and going viral and ruining my life. Yeah. Because, you know, the, in the end, the president depend lost her job.

John Corcoran 14:07

Yeah. I mean, it’s a high wire act when he testified before Congress, you know, and, and I don’t know how full that room was when those, you know, when the head of Penn and Harvard and MIT were testifying, maybe it was an empty room also. And Elise Stefanik, just like, you know, went to town and it became newsworthy, I don’t know. Yeah, sure. Exactly. 

Dan Grech 14:25

I know we’ll probably want to move on. But I wanted to just tell you one other story that made this whole event this whole I don’t even I’m not even quite sure how to process this, but it was kind of funny. So I was one of four small businesses three Republican nominated one Democrat now. The Democratic Representative was a this incredible African American woman black woman from Baltimore, who runs the nation’s largest co-working space with a dedicated full-time daycare center. No cool, and it really caters to working mothers and so she can come in to talk about, there were a lot of childcare credits and provisions in ARPA and the federal stimulus that came after a COVID that has that have expired. And so she came in to basically say how hard that’s been on working mothers and to ask for that to be renewed. It was like an amazing message, very inspirational person. And then on my right, was this fantastic at a central casting, rural Texas business owner with mutton chops, a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots. And so I was like standing in between, you know, me and my purple tie, I think I forgot to tell you this. So I love purple. My purple is my favorite colour, it’s the color of my company. But it also happens to be right between red and blue. So like, I’m wearing a purple tie in between the red and the blue. And it was, it was just wild. As I was talking, people told me I got text messages about this, that the cowboy who you could see half of his face in the live stream,

John Corcoran 16:04

see one out and shop. 

Dan Grech 16:06

One mutton shop exactly was making like grimacing at what I was saying, like complete, like, you know, so much so that my wife got a text message saying that I was having an affair with him. And then at the end, at the end of it, he walks up to me and shakes my hand. And all he says is, you’re a very smart, young man. And then he walks away. So anyway, it was it was a wild experience. Thank you for asking about it. 

John Corcoran 16:34

That’s funny. All right. So let’s, let’s go backwards a little bit in your career, because you got this amazing career working for the post and marketplace and PBS Nightly Business Report and all this kind of different stuff. And you ended up winning a Pulitzer even to talk a bit about your you when you and I first connected, we talked about the parallels between entrepreneurship in journalism. And I’d love to dive back into that again. Yeah,

Dan Grech 17:00

Well, let me give you a very quick summary of my journalism career. And it’s actually really meaningful that we’re talking in December of 2023. Because my journalism career started in December of 1993, 30 years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I lost my Blow Pop business, I was no longer the candy man, I had to reinvent the right career shift, like so many of us. So junior year, I joined the school newspaper. And one of the very first stories I did was a story idea I came up with myself. When I was in gym class, I had had money stolen out of my locked locker.

John Corcoran 17:47

This seems like a common thing at your, at your this high school.

Dan Grech 17:52

And it turned out, it’s very common. It was a very common thing in my high school. All of my friends had had money stolen out of their lockers too. In fact, when I did a school-wide survey, more than half of the school had had money stolen out of their locker while they were in gym class, including a quarter of freshmen who had just been on campus for a few months. And so I wrote a story like an expos a about this. And the campus administration, and the school administration had no idea how pervasive an issue this was. And I remember I was going to do a follow-up story. And one of the people I interviewed who was the head of campus security, was no longer working at the school anymore.

John Corcoran 18:30

So he lost his job because of this?

Dan Grech 18:33

They never said but you know, I want one presumes. And what happened then was I was just hooked like, it was a little bit like a love affair, but a professional love affair I talking about congressional testimony about iki guy, it could guys the Japanese principle of what you love, what you’re good at what the what you can make money doing and what the world needs. And for sure, my first professional love my first professional sweet spot my first iki guy was journalism. And so I ran with it. I went on to instead of washing dishes, in college, I wrote stories for professional publications as a freelancer.

John Corcoran 19:13

I wish I’d done that I actually washed dishes in my local dining commons for a year or two.

Dan Grech 19:18

I had a lot of fun. I did for two years, and I got so tired of stinking like, you know, like feted water that I started to write newspaper articles to stop having to wash dishes and, and what you know, I went from there, got internships at the Boston Globe, The Washington Post and then the Miami Herald. And it was actually as an intern at the Miami Herald, the worst assignment on the metro desk was, that you had to stay up all night outside of LA and Gonzalez, his house. This is back when Eliane Gonzalez, the young Cuban boy who washed ashore on Thanksgiving of 1999.

John Corcoran 19:57

I was actually living in DC At this time, yeah, it was.

Dan Grech 20:01

It was an amazing story, you know, his mother had died on the trip. So he was there alone. His father was still in Cuba. And he wanted him back. Yeah. And his relatives in Miami refused to let him go back to Cuba to be with his father. And it created this incredible international custody battle with, you know, a country we didn’t have any relations with, with Cuba. And it just dragged on and on. And on until one day, the federal government under Janet Reno snatched him out of the house in a raid. And we knew it was coming. We had our sources. We, as in like, the senior reporters, knew it was coming. But those guys wanted to go home and sleep. So they sent all the junior reporters including me to sleep too, to keep vigil outside of the home. And my only job was when the raid happened to call the managing editor, and then try to get the tear gas out of my eyes. And so that’s what I did. And I was there for part of a Pulitzer. I actually wasn’t there the day that the raid happened, but I had been there many days before. It was a young, another young reporter named Carolyn Salazar who was there, she ended up getting the byline. That was on the front page, I was assigned to do an inside story about the religious reaction to it, the religious community’s reaction to it. But that was enough to be a part of Pulitzer’s team for teen coverage of a breaking news event. I call that the Pulitzer for being in the right place at the right time. And then you know, and it just my career went from there, I went on to work for NPR as a Marketplace correspondent and then to be a news director at the local NPR station. until like, it all went to a crashing end 10 years ago when I lost my job at the local NPR station, and I wasn’t able to find another job. And that is the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.

John Corcoran 21:53

And you, you told me that part of the reason you lost your job was even though you were successful, it wasn’t about performance, it was that you had misread the culture of the place. I wanted you to dive into that a little bit more.

Dan Grech 22:08

Am I allowed to curse? Sure. Yeah. I mean, that’s not one way of saying I was an asshole. I mean, let’s be honest, I was an arrogant prick, No at all, who had had nothing but success in his entire life, who was pretty obnoxious to work with. And I, I alienated people, you know, we won more than 70 Awards, the year that I was let go, or that I was fired. And what I misread was that I thought by winning these big awards, and, you know, I had an amazing team and assembled this incredible talent. In fact, some of the people, several of the people that I brought in are now national correspondents for NPR. These were they were kids at the time when I brought them in. So I had this incredibly talented young, striving team, and we were just kicking by and taking names, and I just was really reckless.

John Corcoran 23:08

That must have been such, I mean, to go from winning all those Awards, winning the Pulitzer, Ms has been just like a huge sock in the gut to get fired like that.

Dan Grech 23:18

It was gutting, you know, someone who said, you know, that was that guy was a politician in a hurry. I was a journalist in a hurry. 

John Corcoran 23:27

And we have a lot of it, but a lot of journalists are like that. I mean, that’s what drives them, that what makes them great. That’s what actually, that’s kind of why I didn’t pursue the profession. Beyond dabbling a little bit in college, I felt like I didn’t have enough of that, that drive in me. You know,

Dan Grech 23:43

it’s great until it isn’t. It’s great until it drives you into a wall. It’s great. Until it alienates people. It’s great until it messes up your family relationships, like I can tell you for a fact that to be in a hurry is not a good idea. Whether you’re a journalist or a politician, it means you’re cutting corners, it means that you’re not attending to relationships. And that’s what happened to me. I mean, it was the most difficult lesson, the most humbling lesson, the most gutting lesson. I mean, I lost my professional identity. I lost my iki guy, I lost my friends, most of them were in the newsroom. You know, thank God for my wife and my parents who loved me throughout. I had a nine-month-old child, I didn’t know how I was going to take care of her. It was it was by far the most difficult experience of my life. You know, I remember saying to someone I love the path you were. I said to someone, I love the path I was on. And he said You mean the right. And that really woke me up to the fact that this was an opportunity, an opportunity to reinvent and ultimately find a better place for me professionally and now. Sorry, good, good. So just really quick. I think of journalism journalism is my first love, and I don’t know about you if you married your first love, probably not like that first love is overheated that first love is not sustainable, that first love, you’re like too into it almost like you’re too emotional. And that first love isn’t always the best fit. And that was journalism for me. Like, ultimately, I have found a much more mature love for entrepreneurship than what I ever had with journalism. And I even knew, you know, the world works in funny ways. But like I knew back when I was a high flying journalist that this wasn’t going to be forever. Interesting.

John Corcoran 25:32

Whoa, it was just a case of it was working out okay for you. Up until that point, you’d gotten jobs, you got promotions, you’d been put in positions of responsibility, but that doesn’t mean that you had a passion for it.

Dan Grech 25:46

No, it wasn’t that it was mostly having my child, my daughter. And I just realised that there was something in the world that mattered more to me than being a successful journalist. And I wasn’t really convinced I could be a good dad to her and be a journalist, as well. And I’ll give you like a really concrete example, when I was a foreign correspondent for NPR’s Marketplace. I used to travel around with a packed suitcase in my trunk. Wow. Yeah. One time, when Hurricane Katrina hit, I went straight to the airport and didn’t return for four months. Oh, geez. It’s crazy. And that is not. I mean, ask many journalists. That’s not a typical, you know, what I mean, and, and how do you raise a child? So I think what happened is, you know, any of you who are dads will know this. You know, the mom changes in the process of being pregnant, her body changes her, her mentality changes. The dad, the change comes later. Right? Like, there’s not a lot to do in the first months of birth. You know, the baby, the mom is really attached to the baby’s really touching them on the dad’s dawning. realization of parenthood and fatherhood usually comes later. And most dads can even point to the moment when they realized what it was to be a dad. For me, it was the day that I lost my job. And I thought, You know what? It’s not about me anymore. Like I was the breadwinner in the family. My wife at the time was working. It was on maternity leave. We had no income. The experience of losing my job was so much more than just the personal. It was about, like, for the first time in my life, I needed to go and find money. So that was that was I think, the reason I knew journalism wasn’t going to be sustainable. For me, it was just because it took too much of my life force. And it didn’t leave enough for my family.

John Corcoran 27:40

It also is a profession that over the last 20 years has become less and less paid, the pay has gone down. So that’s, that’s challenging in itself when you’re raising a family, especially an expensive place like Miami. How did you find your way to entrepreneurship after that?

Dan Grech 27:57

Yeah, it’s a bit of a winding journey. But basically my first job after journalism, like so many of us, former media, people was in PR. Then, I was never a big fan of PR, but I was interested in marketing. So I started and got a job. I convinced the people who hired me to do PR for them to let me also oversee their digital marketing department. And I only spent a year in that job, but it basically gave me a little bit of a start. It was enough to get me hired at the local community college to teach a class in marketing. And there’s a really funny story. It was called the Idea Centre at Miami Dade College. Leandro Fino was the executive director. And he likes my resume, you know, as a former journalist and I was a senior director of digital marketing at a billion-dollar company. And so he sits me down and hires me to teach the first-ever class at Miami Dade College for small businesses and marketing. And he says, Okay, what’s our first step? And I look at him straight in the eye, and I say we need to hire a co-instructor. And he leans back in his chair and just leads the biggest lap you’ve ever seen. And he’s like, Okay, go find the co-instructor. He knew, he knew that I didn’t really know marketing. I just knew storytelling. And so what ended up happening is I hired a wonderful co-instructor named Michael Shot, who was a Colombian, non-native English speaker. I literally spent the whole time like translating. He spoke fluent English, but he spoke, you know, digital marketing ease. And so I would like he would like give the lesson and then I would say what he’s saying is, and I would like translate it into more understandable, plain English. And for the first two years, we taught, we co-taught the course that way where he would develop the slides, he would explain them using complicated language and I would re explain them using simple language. And, and while I was doing that I was I was now working at a startup as their head of growth, and I was very successful in the role. We went from pre-revenue to $3.5 million run rate and a $15 million exit in three years. And I was a principal of the company. And it was an extraordinary run. But what the but it was a lot of work and very stressful. And when I would go and teach these classes, my, my, the students, the participants, the business owners would pull me aside and say, Dan, it’s like, so obvious to us that you do not like your day job and you love this teaching, you should really quit the day job and go teach. And so I went and I took a retreat, and I walked, did a silent retreat for a day. And I asked, where’s my joy and I meditated on where’s my joy. And it just was really clear to me that this teaching was, was what I loved. When the company was acquired, I had the opportunity to get a big payout and move to Las Vegas. And I chose to let to not take the payout, quit the job, I also quit my teaching job at Miami Dade College, and I started BizHack Academy. And that was the beginning of you know, like so many technicians. I was like a person who love baking pies, you started a bakery. And like I love teaching classes, who started a teaching academy. And for several years, it wasn’t a business, it was a course. And I just got really good at selling this course sold it to more than 700 business owners more than a million dollars in revenue over several years, selling one course.

John Corcoran 31:34

And over it is what is so much more entrepreneurial than you know, teachers who do kind of the same thing, but they do it within the structure of a university or a high school or something like that, you actually took the course and sold it over and over again.

Dan Grech 31:47

Exactly. And I think to my credit, I always knew that this was just a course this wasn’t a business, a business is not made up of a single product. And but I knew that was going to be my go to market, I just didn’t know it was going to take so long to figure out what the business was. And I was agitated, you know, in their ups and their downs. You know, when we were an in person training academy, and then COVID happened, I had to essentially cancel every class and the business nearly had to shut down, we’ve pivoted to online training. And then the COVID year, a year when people had money and time because of government funding, and the lockdown was the best year in the history of vizac. And then when they reopened and people didn’t have money or time was the worst year in the history a bit back. And so I went from these high highs to these low lows. And finally, you know, here at the end of 2023, when we’re talking I’m finally settling into this, this wonderful place, and I have found my iki guy again, and what my new iki guy, mature iki guy, my, my, what I think will be the love of the rest of my professional life is I really love training, to working with small business support organizations, you know, like, you know, EO which we’re both a member of like, some of these other scores to train small businesses in market where they can grow faster.

John Corcoran 33:14

It’s really interesting, you know, I might, I’m the son of a journalist, my father was a journalist for 30 plus years, I was editor in my high school newspaper, went to a journalism camp in high school, which I say is kind of like Bandcamp, only nerdier. And then, you know, found my way to entrepreneurship. And so there’s these parallels between both of our common experiences, one of the things you said was that both professions agree that we’re not a fit for anything else. In other words, if you’re a journalist, or if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s probably in part because you’re not great at doing a lot of other things. So you end up falling into that. And then another parallel I would draw between the two is that you can constantly be searching for information for more information, be educating yourself. And that’s kind of core to what you do both as an entrepreneur and as a journalist. Any other reflections on the parallels between the two? And that kind of drew you to both?

Dan Grech 34:06

Thank you for asking the question, waiting for me to ask the answer it for 20 minutes. And then finally just reminding me what the answer is.

John Corcoran 34:14

That’s my take. Feel free to disagree.

Dan Grech 34:16

No, no, I love it. No, it’s It’s funny. It’s like, oh, yeah, that was the question he asked. So, so to build on that. Both journalists and entrepreneurs are very extreme personalities. And we’re both really not fit for human society. But the nature of the extreme, the extremity of our personality is very different. And I love both cohorts, with with all my heart. So journalists, are this weird set of contradictory personality types. Number one, journalists are extremely cynical and they’re very very idealistic when it comes to the importance of a free press, but they’re super cynical like, they always assume you’re lying to them, you know, there’s a, there’s a great line, which is, you know, they say, you know, if she says she’s your mother, you need a second source. So you know, you know, that kind of trust, but verify is really embedded in us. And we end up becoming kind of paranoid because we’re constantly being lied to. So there’s that kind of weird, like sinister, cynical, idealistic combo. And then the other thing that’s really weird about journalists, but really consistent when you start to get to know us, is journalists tend to be extremely introverted, often very kind of analytical, and yet, we’re in a profession that constantly forces us to talk to people. And I actually think a lot of journalists precisely us journalism for that reason, because they otherwise it’d be so in some hole, you know, and it forces us to talk to people, entrepreneurs are, essentially most of us are either manic depressive, or ADHD. And we there’s this like, almost hyperactive energy, that you can probably detect a little bit in me, I’m not ADHD, but I’m on the spectrum for sure. But that like just this, we vibrate really fast, and especially what Gino Wickman would call the visionary entrepreneur, one of my mentors, says that to be a visionary entrepreneur is a diagnosis. And so, you know, really, most entrepreneurs are unemployable. And I call them you know, they’re basically they started a business because no one else but themselves would hire themselves. But the same quality that makes us you know, many, many of us, like, I have not this, I went to a good school and several of them many of us have dropped out of high school and many of you dropped out of college, never really felt like we found a fit. You know, in formal schooling. A lot of what made it so difficult for entrepreneurs to fit into normal society and school is what made them willing and able to take the risk to go after their big idea and turn it into a reality that kind of Steve Jobs, reality, bending forcefield and so there’s a lot of, you know, ADHD built Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson Hall have acknowledged that they have ADHD and Elon Musk on the spectrum.

John Corcoran 37:36

Yeah, Elon Musk is definitely on the spectrum.

Dan Grech 37:40

You know, and these, really, if you surround yourself if you know yourself and surround yourself with the right people, these actually can become incredible assets. When you start growing your business.

John Corcoran 37:54

 It’s interesting because you, you you knew what you’re passionate about, you know, you’d like doing you also know what your superpower is it just teaching and training. Then, you eventually evolve the business into doing more fractional CMO work and training marketing. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the areas that you train regarding Marketing. Today, as we record this at the end of 2023. Because with the rise of Chat GPT in AI, there’s a lot of change that’s happening for small business owners with regard to marketing today.

Dan Grech 38:24

Yeah, so we’ll talk about two things. One is the more boring but important one. And then the second one is the AI thing that everybody wants to talk about. Let’s talk about the boring but important. First of all, marketing is actually two things. And I think business owners sometimes don’t realize this marketing is lead generation. So marketing is a wage for you to basically get qualified leads to your salespeople and get them to sell them and generate revenue. But marketing is also brand building and thought leadership, which does not have a direct tie to revenue, but is a rising tide that floats all boats. And the number one mistake that a lot of business owners make is that they only value lead generation. And they don’t recognize the important role that brand building and thought leadership have. So anyway, we teach both of them we teach brand building and we teach what we call thought leadership. Thought Leadership means just basically becoming an influencer in your industry so people trust you. Now why is this important? Because people buy from people they like and they trust. So if you’re a thought leader, as you are, John and as people, you know, people buy from you because they like you because they trust you because they listen to your podcast and your podcast is excellent. You do your homework, and you they know that when you take care of them, you’re going to take care of them just like you’re taking care of me and you’re gonna put the same care into them that you’re putting into me. So that’s Thought Leadership, right? It’s hard for you to attribute a sale to that. But it’s part of the mix of things that people consider when they try to decide whether they want a higher rise. Now, lead gen right is running a digital ad that is targeted to a specific person with a very particular call to action that gets them to get an irresistible offer that gets them into the door. With that pre yours instable offer that you then begin to move them along a customer journey that ends in a sale and then an upsell. Right. And that’s the other half of marketing. But for most small businesses, that’s all that marketing is. So anyway, we teach both. And then the other piece of this is the accelerant. That is AI. So chat GPT. And other AI tools are the most powerful productivity tool in a generation. And you can do we call it 1000 decks 10 times better, 10 times more 10 times faster. And the one thing I would add to that is you can also do 10 times the number of things that you could have done with your current budget. So it’s almost like 10,000x, it’s just this extraordinary accelerant. It makes you so much more productive. And it really changes the roles that you need in a company. For instance, when you’re in a marketing setting, you as the business owner can probably draft with the help of chat GPT, most of the copy that you need for emails, social media, and a website, just through a conversation with Chat GPT. And then what you really need is a really strong editor who knows your company to 10, take that raw material, and then really hone it for the specifics of your company and your target audience. So for instance, in my company, I no longer have a copywriter. Instead, I have hired two types of editors: a copy editor, who is more of a strategic editor who makes sure that the copy aligns with my strategic goals, and a line editor who looks for typos. And I pay about $80 an hour for the strategic editor and a lot less for the line editor. Because I just don’t want any typos in my text before it goes out. That’s a change. And so I’ve saved hundreds of 1000s of dollars at this point in my business through efficiencies. There’s actually one quick thing I’ll mention because a lot of people don’t know about this, if you download the Chat GBT app, you’ll notice when you see the prompt that there’s this little headphones icon and you press the headphones icon and it will begin a conversation with you. And so you can use your hands free while you’re walking or driving. And you can have a conversation with Chad GPT so I often will draft my email sequences or my blog posts in conversation with Chat GPT. Hands-Free while walking down the boardwalk.

John Corcoran 42:56

Wow, that’s amazing. Go get some exercise while you’re getting some work done at the same time. So cool. Welcome talk

Dan Grech 43:02

Yeah, I think Steve Jobs often talked about walking talk. I know for me who’s a little bit you know, spastic. I think best when I am in the mood and movement. And so it really like I don’t know why, but when I’m moving and walking, I know. I don’t know if you ever, like take a phone call and you walk around pays. Yeah, yeah. It’s great. Yeah, yeah. But it’s that but without another human being. It’s actually but what’s really cool is the voices are very human-like, and they even incorporate arms and pauses. Yeah,

John Corcoran 43:31

yeah. And there’s another one, Pi, which I played around with. It’s an app as well, a little bit more conversational. A little bit more human, I think. So I encourage people to check that out. Dan, I know we’re at time so I’m gonna I’m gonna let you go. Where can people go to learn more about you and connect with you and learn about BizHack Academy?

Dan Grech 43:49

Do we have to end this is too much fun. I’m having a blast

John Corcoran 43:52

here. But I like to be respectful of my guest’s time. So yeah,

Dan Grech 43:56

no, absolutely. Well, so what BizHack really focuses on is we work with business support organizations like chambers of commerce, networking groups, and we provide training to their small business members, any organization that has a mission of serving small businesses. You can learn more about us at bizhack.com. That’s bizhack.com. We’d also love to connect with you on social media. You can find me on LinkedIn as Dan Gretch. And you can find us on all the social channels at BizHack Academy.

John Corcoran 44:35,

And go subscribe to his email newsletter because I’ve been on your email list. You share a lot of useful resources and things like that. So I encourage people to do that. 

Dan Grech 44:44

Yeah, and I did have one last thing to mention, which is we do run a free masterclass series that is funded by the local Miami Dade government but is open to anyone and we’ve done we’ve done more than 100 of them. We’ve won four national awards; you can go to bizhack.com/mc for masterclass. And we’d love to have you there.

John Corcoran 45:06

That’s very cool. Dan, thank you so much. Thank you.

Outro 45:13

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time, and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.