001 Dave Kerpen | Truly Likeable: The Power of Saying NO to Achieve Success

Dave KerpenDave Kerpen from Likeable Media and Likeable Local is our guest today.  Dave has achieved success in business (like Inc 500 List and the NY Best Selling Author List), but to get here he had to say NO to clients that were not in alignment with where he wanted to take his company.

Dave launched his foray into this business with a unique event. It was a wedding, but not just any wedding. Dave wanted a BIG wedding and to get sponsors. This wedding was for 500 friends and family members plus 5,000 strangers on a minor league baseball field. Dave and his wife got sponsors to pay for the wedding and it raised $20,000 for charity. This event was the trigger that started his media business.

Likeable Media didn’t start off serving Fortune 500 brands with social media services. In fact, Dave was “in the trenches” in the beginning by taking any and all clients. It is easy to say YES to money when you first start out. However, Dave tells the story of a friend that gave him sage advise about focusing his business. Dave has a grand vision for his company and knew that he needed to only take on clients that would support that vision.

It is hard to say NO when someone wants to pay you and there are also fears that go along with it.

Tweet: Listening to @DaveKerpen on http://ctt.ec/5VIsy+ #litt “The Power of Saying NO to Achieve Success”

Dave is a leader that knows what it is like to be “in the trenches” of your business but one critical aspect to being a market leader is to listen to clients and prospects. Dave regularly calls his customers on the phone to LISTEN to them about his products and services.

In fact we had an exchange about the VALUE of listening. Dave feels so strongly about its importance that Listening is the 1st chapter of each of his 3 books (Likeable Social Media, Likeable Business, and Likeable Leadership) and very likely also the 1st chapter of his upcoming book, The Art of People in 2015: 11 People Skills to Master to Get Everything You Want.

Listening is everything. It is the single most important skill in business and life. We have to learn it and re-learn it”. ~ Dave Kerpen

HINT: Discover the VERY NEXT STEP to you becoming a market leader (It is common sense, but many skip this one). 

Dave shared another technique for listening is to use social media like Twitter and Facebook. By using social media to listen to customers, you can go beyond the hashtag. Dave shares a technique to take the exact words and find others talking about your business.


  • “I love fear…I am all about fear.”
  • Fear holds most people back. We are programmed to not be afraid.
  • Embrace the fear if you want to find the courage
  • Firing clients is hard to do, and something I did fear.

The story of Charlie is quite powerful. Charlie is a metaphor (I think) of that customer that gave you chance, but it was just about the money. Charlie’s project is not in alignment with the company’s overall direction and goals. But if you want success you have to say no to Charlie and not give in to the fear that another customer will not come along. But if you want to grow (more freedom and more impact) you will have to get over some of the limiting thinking that might hold you back..

Success with Focusing Your Business:
Typically, focused or niched businesses get more traffic, subscribers, engagement and sales. However, Dave shares what it gave him.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Niches:
Vertical Niches – are industry specific. In a vertical you understand the market, but you will have to have geographic disparity to make sure you are not working with too many competitors. e.g. Dentist

Horizontal Niches – span across many industries…like social media for “small business” (inside joke)

To decide which is best for you…you have to know what your vision is for your business and the best way to do this is by listening. Dave mentions about having the exact goal in mind.

Creating content is not going away and there is lots of clutter in our inboxes, Facebook, Twitter and other areas. The best way to break through the clutter is to create content with a specific purpose in mind for your audience. This is another reason why niching is so important. It helps you to really know your audience.

Writing online:
Lots of people fear writing, but Dave shares why you need to be consistent with your writing and be specific about who you are writing it to.

  1. Who do you want to read this?
  2. What is your purpose for this piece?

The #1 way to become a better writer is to write consistently and often. Dave’s article published on Linkedin “5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Creating content that gives tremendous value is critcal. You have to think about what value you can give away and not be obsessed about making money.
“Those that give it [value] away get the most back.” ~ Dave Kerpen

Practical and Actionable:

  1. Fear – List your fears and accept them. Write beneath them what you are going to do about each one.
  2. Listening – Compile a list of words that your ideal clients are using (should be using) and use social media to listen in on the conversation. Don’t sale them. Just listen and engage.
  3. Writing – List 10 insights and lessons that you can create just for your audience. Write those 10 pieces and share. Look into LinkedIn as a publishing platform.

What is Next for Dave?:

  • Dave’s next book is “The Art of People: 11 People Skills to Master to Get Everything You Want” in publishing in 2015
  • Launching Likeable Local which is social marketing tools for small businesses (He has his eye on 10 verticals to get started).


SPECIAL NOTE: How to connect with influencers? I found Dave Kerpen by sending him a tweet. I read an article on INC magazine and liked it so much that I wanted to thank him. Twitter can be a great tool to connect with people that you want to thank or express gratitude.

To give Dave a shout out for being on the show, follow him at @davekerpen and send him a message (hey, use #LITT to let me know you guys connected).

Tweet: Listening to @davekerpen on http://ctt.ec/5VIsy+ #litt “The Power of Saying NO to Achieve Success”

Do you have questions about today’s episode!?!

Just in case you have questions about this episode or a specific challenge you have in your business, you can send me an email.  I value responsiveness and would love to chat with you about your business.  This is your chance.  You can take it now.  If you need help…here is a single question to help you.  “What is your top two challenges that you faced in the last week?”

The transcript will be available shortly – thank you!

4 replies
  1. Cathy Sirvatka
    Cathy Sirvatka says:

    I loved this interview and it spoke to something I’m facing right now,
    which is fear of letting go of low paying clients. I thought I had this
    licked but fear has crept back in (financial fear) and I find myself
    frustrated with small, unfulfilling projects because I don’t want to let
    go of clients. This talk has helped to again solidify that I NEED to
    let some of these folks go. They prevent me from focusing on the goals I have set for this year. Thank you both Gene and Dave!

    • leadersinthetrenches
      leadersinthetrenches says:

      Thank you Cathy. We have fears that we will encounter and my hope is to have guest that will not hold back on sharing their fears so that it may help others. I am glad you enjoyed the show.


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