In the 7th grade, Benji Rabhan led a team of fellow students to physically network an entire school with multiple computers in every room, making it the most connected in the district. Now he consults with multi-million dollar companies. His new book, Failure is Obsolete, empowers others to realize similar success.
Rabhan is the founder and CEO of MorrisCore marketing and web solutions, and its subsidiary companies ConversionCore, ClickCore, and AutomationCore. He’s helped others improve their online presence and make money with their websites since he was 13 years old. He’s a professional speaker and an expert in conversion rate optimization, automation, web design, PPC, and online marketing.
In November 2011, Rabhan was honored at the White House as an Empact100 recipient, a top 100 American entrepreneur under the age of 30. Here, KillerStartups is fortunate enough to share more of Rabhan’s inspiring journey and his holistic approach to achieving both business and personal fulfillment:
How did you manage to begin your entrepreneurial career when you were just 13 years old?
I was a very curious kid and always enjoyed reverse-engineering things. When I was 6 years old, I actually tore out the wall unit in my bedroom and figured out that the four colored wires meant that I could install a phone line in my room. So I took my sister’s phone and installed it onto my open wires. (Needless to say, she was NOT happy!)
I was fortunate to have a computer in my house when the idea of home computers was still pretty new, and I played on it all the time. Before I was 10 years old, I even took it apart and put it all back together, just to see how it worked. So by age 11, when we got the Internet for the first time, I just had to figure out how to make my own website. Just for fun, I made a fake website for a fake company.
For some reason, I always had the idea to be an entrepreneur. I’m not really sure why, but I looked up to other entrepreneurs. It was probably because of the influence from my grandfather and father, just watching them and seeing how they did things. Well, my father was not an entrepreneur at that point, but he eventually became one. Entrepreneurialism sort of ran in my family for many generations.
When I was 13, I had already made a bunch of small websites, fake websites, and animations with flash. So my father was bragging about me to his friends. One of his friends who eventually became my mentor hired me to do his e-commerce website from scratch with a Flash video. He offered to pay me and buy me the latest version of the software that I needed. We went to the computer store and bought everything I needed. I built him an e-commerce site from scratch, and that was my first client.
He ended up teaching me and guiding me, as he was a successful entrepreneur himself in the insurance industry. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with someone like him and have mentors at such a young age (even if they didn’t know they were mentoring me).
What do you consider to be the three most essential ingredients for successful conversion rate optimization?
You must know your audience, first of all. Most people who change their websites make changes based on their current customers as opposed to their prospects. If you know who your prospects are and their intentions, you’ll be many steps ahead of everyone else.
Second, you must know how to measure conversion rates accurately and the difference between a conversion rate that is going to make a difference and a conversion rate that will not make a difference to your overall business. You also need to understand how micro-conversion rates will affect your bottom line conversion rate.
And third, you must be dedicated to growing your business and continually improving your online presence. Focus your website on conversions as opposed to the latest fads in design or just your own personal preferences. Truly dedicate and commit yourself to improving your site through conversion rate optimization and listen to the results. If you then question the reason behind the results, you’ll be many steps ahead of everyone else.
As a professional speaker, have you ever had something go wrong at an event? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Yes. In fact, I did have something go wrong at my most recent event. The people putting on the event were not very prepared from a technology standpoint and from the presenter’s perspective. They didn’t have a presenter’s mouse or a computer setup that was easy to use, and there was no time set aside to get the presentation set up. So when it came time to speak, I had to be a little bit more proactive to get them to let me set everything up and test it beforehand. Even so, it still ended up failing a little bit because their computer screen contrast was so off that the audience couldn’t see one of my main slides in the beginning, which is sort of the foundation for the rest of the presentation.
I handled it by putting a little more time and explanation into that point verbally. I got the audience to focus on me rather than the slides behind me. Eventually, we were able to solve the problem, and we moved on. But there was about five minutes worth of wasted time during the presentation because of the technology failures. At the end of the day though, the audience seemed to enjoy themselves and learned a lot, and that’s really what counts and what I was going for.
I understand you have a book coming out soon. Can you tell me a bit about it and maybe how the process of writing has been different (or the same) from your other work?
The book is called Failure is Obsolete: The Ultimate Strategy to Create Recurring Success in Your Business and Your Life. It’s about the idea that you can minimize your chance of failure so much so that it’s almost like you have a looking glass into the future. Using my methodology, you can predict what’s going to happen so accurately that failure is pretty much no longer an option.
I had many mentors with high-risk tolerances over the years. I like to know how things are going to turn out, so just like with the phone wires in my wall, I reverse-engineered a strategy to test high-risk decisions in a low-risk way. In the book, I lay out the formula step by step so you can follow it easily – and hopefully enjoy the read while you’re at it.
The process of writing was different than any other type of writing or teaching I’ve done in the past because I had to format the book to reach an audience that is not highly technical. I couldn’t count on every reader having specialized knowledge. I had to take some of the more technical concepts and explain them in a way where an 11-year-old and a 52-year-old CEO could read, learn, understand, and benefit from the information. It was a challenge. Fortunately, I have a great team behind me who helped me through the process.
What did you take away from your visit to the White House in 2011?
Winning the Empact 100 Award was definitely an honor. And I had no idea what to expect when visiting the White House. What I learned was there are a lot of young entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are also driven to succeed, improve, and become better people, better entrepreneurs, and better bosses. For me, this was a positive step, and I’m so happy to have been involved. It’s good to know so many more young entrepreneurs who I can relate to and be friends with. I know they will be around as long as I will.
How do you measure success at MorrisCore?
One of the biggest measures for success at MorrisCore is first and foremost the happiness level of our team and our clients as well. Above and beyond profit, I want to make sure that everyone on our team has a good and happy life. I can’t control everything, but at least in the workplace, I want people to be happy and productive. After that, we measure success based on team involvement and the goals that we set in the previous year.
Each year, I set goals for my business and personal life. I figure out where I want to go and how I want to see the business at the end of the following year. So each year, I base the number on what I have previously marked as success. And that’s not always about money or profit. This year, my goal was to write a book. Growing the business by three times was also a goal. We reached both of these goals and surpassed our expectations in other similar goals.
But I want to stress that for us – while financial goals are great, and we do reach and surpass them every year (we have tripled our size each year) – we measure success much more from the success and happiness of our employees and our staff, both personally and professionally. If we all grow personally and professionally, then we’re successful. The numbers are just there to measure this growth of the team and lead the company in the right direction.
Any new websites we should be on the lookout for in 2013?
I would love to say yes because the answer is yes. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to announce our next project yet, even though it will be coming out soon after this interview. Check our website, MorrisCore.com, or follow me on Twitter @benjirabhan for an upcoming announcement on our next software product. I’m very proud of our team for creating this amazing piece of software. It will help entrepreneurs and business people around the world improve their lives and save time without incurring huge expenses. I can’t stress how proud I am of my team for creating such a great new system.
Between the companies, the book, and speaking engagements, what does your free time look like?
In fact, I actually have quite a bit of free time, but this is done purposefully. I made a promise to myself when I met my wife that I would create an equal balance of free time and work. So I actually only work about 40 or 50 hours a week, and I spend quite a bit of time traveling and just about every weekend with my wife. I’m also a big TV buff; I love watching TV.
At the end of the day, I actually love my work so much that sometimes I can’t tell the difference between work time and time off. I know that sounds corny, but it’s very true. I really do enjoy working with my team, my clients, and on all the cool projects we have. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people and to be able to do such great things without having to overwhelm myself or my team too much. I hope that sense of fun continues in the long run since that is one of our main measures of success.
It’s common to hear entrepreneurs stress the importance of focus or choosing to act on one idea. Yet you have multiple companies and projects in play at the same time. How do you direct your energy and sustain so many ventures?
A business partner once told me that I had to choose one thing and focus on it. But that is very stressful for me because I have so many ideas and things I could do, and there are so many opportunities that I notice day in and day out. It’s just how my brain works. I identify opportunities constantly throughout the day. So for me, it was very against the grain to just do one thing. I found when I focused on one thing, my anxiety increased significantly because I was living too deeply in the company. By being at the 50,000-foot view constantly for all my companies, I’m able to see them from the perspective of growth. I get to work on my company instead of in my company, which is a large part of what led to our success and growth in each of the companies.
It’s also about the team that you bring on. You can’t do everything yourself, so spend time documenting, building systems, and automating processes. Also work to bring on the right team members who can fulfill these roles. Then you will have more time to prioritize the projects you want to and should work on.
I literally have a list of hundreds of opportunities, business ideas, and software concepts that I could apply. And every three months or so, I sit down, look at the list, and review it to see if there’s anything that sounds like it will be a better opportunity then what I am currently considering. Then I choose one, and I start on that path. Occasionally, yes, I do have to get involved more in the business operations, but it’s usually only a month or two before I can hire the right person or automate the right system. Then I can step back out again.
With the right team, the right resources, and automated processes, I don’t think there is a limit to the number of successful businesses I can have. They just need the ability to grow on their own. Diversification benefits everyone because if one business fails at some point, which is always a possibility, then I have many other businesses and concepts to fall back on. This benefits the team supporting that business, too. I can move them from one company to another, and no one has to lose their job without notice – which for me is an extremely important factor in the decision-making process.
Is there anything else about yourself or your companies you would like our readers to know?
I think the biggest thing I would want people to take away is that while I did have some opportunities, things didn’t come extremely easily. There was a lot of struggle. Struggle is part of the process, and struggle never ends. If you can push yourself past each struggle, each failure, and learn from it and grow, there are so many different directions you can go to succeed. You just decide which way you want to go and make it happen.
In my early years as serious entrepreneur, I had many businesses and every single one of them failed within six months – with the exception of a few – because I didn’t have a long-term vision, goal, plan, or strategy. I didn’t put enough emphasis on building my team and putting the right systems in place. So if there’s one thing you take from this, it’s that if you create a happy team and a positive environment with automated systems and you limit yourself and the time you invest in something realistic, you will find that you’ll master prioritization. And I think that has led to these great opportunities and successes – as I would call them – in my company and in my life.
Don’t let a struggle or a problem or a setback get in your way. Analyze it, learn from it, and move on, and don’t make that same mistake again if you can help it. I wish everyone the best to their success. It’s never too late – or too early – to be a successful entrepreneur.
To learn more, find Rabhan on Twitter at @benjirabhan.