I recently attended a convention hosted by Wild West Domains/GoDaddy. I met founder and CEO Bob Parsons who made a rousing one hour speech that moved and inspired me. This is a summary and simple commentary of that speech:
Bob Parsons started off by saying the average American had a higher IQ than him. There’s probably not much truth to this, but it took Bob from being the head of the largest domain registrar in the world to a friend four rows away from me. He followed by stating that he’s rich, knows “how to make a buck” and wants to share what he knows. The audience was eager to learn.
His story began in fifth grade, when at the end of the school year, he was not given a report card like most other students. He and two other failed classmates were told to stay in the classroom while the graduated students were lined up and taken outside to their families. Realizing that he had flunked the 5th grade, he decided to take a chance, and run out of the classroom and join the graduating class. Long story short, he tricked his family, friends and catholic school teacher into allowing him to advance into 6th grade. This is when he learned the benefits of taking risks in life.
Bob continued to tell colorful stories of joining the Marine Corp and his experience in Vietnam. “By accepting the worst possible outcome” – his death – he was able to continue fighting… and living. This became a major theme of his presentation. As point man in the front of his line, he was wounded and sent home.
His time after Vietnam was spent carousing. He said, “Clinton never inhaled. I never exhaled!” He dawdled for a while, and then he enrolled himself in University of Baltimore. Bob majored in accounting and graduated magnum cum laude. He states that his only “B” was in data processing.
On assignment for his first employer, he picked up a computer programming book at a bookstore at Stanford University. He joked that he received his programming education at Stanford. Soon after, he wrote his My Accounts program and started Parson’s Technology.
Out of money and struggling with sales, he lowered his prices from $129, which was the suggested price, to $12. He publically advised his customers they could copy, share or “do any goddamn thing they want to with the software.” He simply wanted them to send him twelve dollars.
He developed other applications, earned 4% of North American market share and sold Parson’s Technology to Intuit for $64 million. Due to the no-compete clause, he took a year off. That year was spent golfing and “dressing like a foreign flag.” At that point, he was ready to start a new a new company and GoDaddy was born.
The initial concept behind GoDaddy was to sell domain names, then sell software to those same customers. The objective was never to simply be a domain registrar.
The $64 million dwindled to $30M, then $20M and finally $6M. At that point, he considered cutting losses, paying off creditors and putting together severance packages for his employees. Enter the dot.com bust: Due to the affordability of the product, GoDaddy quickly became profitable and in 2005, GoDaddy surpassed Network Solutions to become the largest registrar in the world. Bob quoted a Chinese proverb: “The temptation to quit will be greatest before you are about to succeed.”
He segwayed to where he sums it all up he with the wisdom he gained by stating the following, “As the invention of automobile led to the roads we have connecting places all over the world, the adoption of the internet will lead to seven billion people communicating online.”
His instruction and shared wisdom are as follows:
Take time to see things as they are. Never fully believe you understand something in its entirety – to where you get stuck looking at only a piece of the entire picture – continuously move and question your subject matter.
Do not let political correctness get in the way of business. He poses the question: If 92 million people are watching the Superbowl – most of them men – most of them distracted (with the game and viewing/party environment) – “What is something that will get men’s attention?” – “What are they going to be looking at?” – “Where should you put your company logo?”… nuff said…
The commercial was set to air twice that game. The network was flooded with so many negative calls that they pulled the second and played a Simposons advertisement instead.
It’s good that people like your ads; it’s better if they don’t. Bob said that moms, dads, ministers, community leaders – everyone – talked about his Superbowl ad. He explained that this is the best kind of publicity that a company can get. GoDaddy went from 15% to 25% market share after its airing
Another little known fact – When they were trying to come up with a name for the company in his office one day they thought of using BigDaddy. Already claimed on the domain registry, Bob proposed the name “Godaddy.” While mulling over the proposed name, he noticed two things that most always happened when someone heard “GoDaddy” for the first time. 1: They smiled. Bob likes that. 2: They remember it. He loves that. So he made the name of his company to GoDaddy Software.
If possible be friends with everybody. Bob encouraged his audience “not to fight every fight. Be neutral, and “when the dust settles, stand next to the winner.” He’s had way more success with friends than enemies.
Most importantly, have fun! When an attendee from the audience asked Bob what “gets him up in the morning,” he laughed a little at the way the question was worded and explained that he never did any of it for the money. “Do it because you love doing it… Enjoy the ride… If you have fun, you will think clearer and life is better… If you love something it will tell you all of it’s secrets.