SXSW wouldn't be SXSW without the incredible enthusiasm of social media pioneer / entrepreneur / author / investor / wine enthusiast / New York Jets fan Gary Vaynerchuk. For 2014, his passion will help kick off the event at 12:30 pm on Friday, March 7. Attend the special "Gary Vaynerchuk Tells You How to Rock SXSW" session to hear him explain how many of the principles of his new book "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World" apply to getting the most out of your time in March in Austin.
In celebration of this special March 7 session, SXSW Advisory Board member CC Chapman sat down with Vaynerchuk for a quick 20-question interview. Chapman is a Boston-based storyteller, explorer and humanitarian. He is the author of Amazing Things Will Happen and the co-author of Content Rules. Chapman currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for YSN.
SXSW: So I’m curious. You’re on the road all the time; does the travel ever get to you?
Vaynerchuk: This is a really interesting question. I’m going to give you a really honest answer. The answer is no. Which is very contradictory to the fact that I hate that I’m away from the kids and my wife right? Whether it’s my biggest strength or my biggest weakness I live in the moment. When I’m at SXSW for example and I’m catching up with old friends and new friends I’m really happy about it. Sure, I’m sad that for those four days I’m not seeing my kids, my wife, my friends. But, the stunning answer is no. I’m pretty good at doing what I want to do for life and I like being on the road and having these new experiences and doing what I do for a living.
SXSW: What do you think about the theories that a work life balance is not the right conversation? That you need to have more of a blend where you figure out what works for you?
Vaynerchuk: I’ve been on this kick for a while which is the work life balance is kind of one of the most personal things going right? I don’t judge people on how they go about doing it. Mine is very extreme, and I keep adjusting daily. One of my most exciting moments is the fact that I now walk my daughter to school several times a week, which is something I didn’t do just last year. So I keep trying to get better at it. But I’m working hard because it’s a very personal thing. Here’s what I would say. At the end of the day we’re all going to be older and we’re going to look back at our lives. If we regret spending too much time on work or not trying harder at the work that’s going to be the consequence. That’s going to be the final faith. Nobody can judge it except for the people that actually lived it. I want everybody to have more self-awareness and communication. Fight for that self-awareness within yourself and then communicate with your partner and the people you’re affecting with your decisions.
SXSW: One of the things that I think is interesting about you is you’ve taken a personal brand and built a company around it. I know that’s not an easy task and I’m curious what are some of the lessons and pitfalls you learned along the way?
Vaynerchuk: I think people in the SXSW crowd are a little shocked by my history and what I did. Meaning, because I’m a little bit of an over blown character and my personality is such, I think I tricked people into forgetting that I actually built a business the first time around. I think somewhere you know six, seven or eight years ago when I was meeting you and everybody else, a lot of the story was like, oh man that kid built a big business. Like wow cool, that’s interesting. Then I almost became a character myself. I became such an out there kind of guy. It became more about me as the personality and a speaker and an opinionator more so than my chaps to build a business. I’ve been pleasantly excited the people recognizing how big VaynerMedia has become and how it’s a real company. It was very easy for me because I’ve done it before. This isn’t my first go around of actually building a business. I know how to do it. It’s actually more of who I am. But, listen from twenty-two to thirty nobody in the world even knew who I was outside of the local people in New Jersey who saw me building this big business. So for me there were a lot of obvious pitfalls, which I knew was getting into. The first two years everybody was going to be cynical that it was the Gary V show and you were hiring me and I wasn’t going to be there all the time and I was going to peddle you to my people. Kind of like a bait and switch. That would be the cynical point of view. But, I never worried about that because I knew who I was. I knew that wasn’t my intent. I wasn’t trying to maximize the profit of my Internet celebrity and that I was really trying to build an agency.
SXSW: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is the title of your newest book. Have you ever box before?
Vaynerchuk: No, but I really want to. I’ve worked out with boxing in the gym, but not yet in the ring going three minutes. I can only go for about 45 seconds. But no, which is really to bad because I think I really should do it and I want to. I think I’d do well. It’s something that’s been running into my mind more and more every day. I love the sport and the cardio work out is incredible.
SXSW: Explain where the book title comes from because I know it is not about boxing as much as it is about business.
Vaynerchuk: There are two things to how I got the title. One, there’s a notion of give, give, give and then ask which is a jab, jab, jab right hook. As you know C.C., you are really close to this because we grew up in this world together. I’m very comfortable asking for business, but I spend an ungodly amount of time to equal that out. I played at those to extremes. I probably asked for the sales of my book when I’m selling it more than most and I’m probably engaging in answering people’s stuff more than most and that’s where I find my balance. But there was another reason I wrote it. I think most people think that social media is just putting a picture on Facebook. The same way people think that boxing is two guys going into ring just trying to punch each other in the face. Anybody who knows about boxing, they know that it’s more similar to chess than it is a football. It’s very strategic and known as the sweet science. That’s how my social media is done. For my clients there is a science, there’s a lot of analytics, there’s a lot of thinking that goes into the creative. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into what time do you post? How many letters? Which hashtag? What’s the psychology of the customer when they’re consuming it? I’m thinking about the science of social probably more serious than a lot of people and I wanted to show that in the title of the book.
SXSW: I don’t understand why we don’t hear more about your book The Thank You Economy? It is personally my favorite book of yours and I liked it a lot better than the other ones.
Vaynerchuk: There are two reasons why and first is I actually promoted it the least. I spent less time on the actual hype of that book. Number two, and this is such an interesting thing to say and it’s probably me being flattering back to you but it’s the truth. The smartest people do because it was the most philosophical and intellectual of my three books. Crush It and the extremity that I took with Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook was so that they really focused on utility and with Thank You Economy I went very deep and textbook like. It’s a combination of less promotion and being a more challenging philosophical book. But it’s very interesting to me. You are part of the group of people that I have in my mind that I’ve always respected and it’s almost one for one they find that one to be the best and it make sense to me because I think they get it as a religion versus a tactic.
SXSW: I’m a big fan of conscious capitalism and that approach to doing business. Do you think businesses have to be motivated by more than only the bottom line?
Vaynerchuk: Yes, but I actually think they’re more selfish than most people think. I think that it’s not about cause marketing or things of that nature. I actually think the reason I know I’m always going to be successful in business is because I care about my employees more than anything else in the world. I care more about my employees and when I think about how I care about my customers in comparison they’re not even the same. I’m often heard saying I’m the head of HR of VaynerMedia and then I’m the CEO.
SXSW: Why is SXSW still relevant to you? Why would you tell someone to attend?
Vaynerchuk: SXSW when you look at person for person, content for content I still think SXSW has the best of any event. It’s not just that the panels are better. The people to headliners are better. Beyond just the conference part, there is no other place I can spend three days and catch up with the eighty five percent of the people that matter to me whether it’s emotionally or professionally.
SXSW: I don’t have to tell you this, but there are a lot of people that don’t like you. How do you deal with all the hate that comes your way?
Vaynerchuk: Here’s what makes me most proud. The people that take even half a second to really, really dig in I think I’m winning ninety nine percent of the time. For the others, I think they’re right I can come across brash. I can come across egotistical. I can come across childish; I can come across a lot of ways. If you catch me in certain moments; for one sound bite, half a keynote or a competitive moment it happens. I deal with it by respecting the point of view on it.
SXSW: You’re not afraid to try new things. You’re always experimenting, you’re testing, and you’re seeing what could be done. How important do you think experimentation is for an entrepreneur?
Vaynerchuk: I think it’s like the US military without having a Navy Seal unit. The US has the best military in the world and while I don’t love war, I believe this also keeps war away. You can’t just buy tanks, guns and aircraft carriers; you have to have a Navy Seals unit that can take care of certain things. That nimbleness and curiosity has been the backbone of my success.
SXSW: Lately, you’ve become a successful investor. What do you look for in a company that will make you choose to invest in them?
Vaynerchuk: Two things and only two things. Number one, they’re actually building exactly what I think is the right thing in that space. So it makes think, that’s it, that’s the one, that’s going to be incredible! But, more often because that’s a rarity and I’m too busy to have a point of view on everything, I’m betting on the jockey. It’s me betting on a jockey instead of the horse. The app or product is the horse and the founders are their jockeys.
SXSW: You’ve got young kids. What are you hoping changes in the world for them?
Vaynerchuk: If we can instill a whole lot more self-awareness and empathy in the world, I wish I could live in that world. I hope we see this continuation of great conversation around entrepreneurs because if Misha ends up with my DNA, I want to make sure she has every opportunity that I had. I hope that people still recognizing that emotional intelligence is equal, not greater than intellectual intelligence. Those are probably the things I most think about.
SXSW: Right now there is a global youth unemployment crisis. What advice would you give a soon to be college graduate entering the workforce?
Vaynerchuk: To me I think the first five years of your career is the highest risk of things. The other thing is mentorship is grossly underestimated. I’ve been looking at my three assistants and what their lives have became because they paid their dues and did the dirty work for a couple of years. But they got so close to me they read all my email, they got smart as Moses right? It’s incredible because it makes me realize, my God you’re so much better off if you want to be like me in any way to come and be my assistant for a couple of years versus going to business school. So I recommend to everybody look at the role models that you have in the world and even if it’s for free go work for them.
SXSW: You are going to be speaking again at SXSW this year. What are you hoping the audience takes away?
Vaynerchuk: My talk focuses on what to expect from SXSW and a welcome to SXSW. I sort of hacked SXSW five years or six years ago. It was absolutely my coming out party to the tech world. It was lots of giving instead of taking. So I’m going to try to psychology get people to think about different things about how the network properly. How do you get the most out of it emotionally? Not just collecting the most business cards or making the most deals.
SXSW: I know you’re a gadget guy. What gadget or technology are you dying for someone to invent right now?
Vaynerchuk: On demand delivery that really executes what is not typically to everything. The number thing I care about is time. Uber is so incredible because it literally works every time. So could I get that for everything? Could I have Seamless as well FreshDirect for everything? A lightweight on demand culture. Meaning can I speed the process of me getting a root beer if I wanted one right now? How do make everything faster? Something that makes everything faster is what I want.
SXSW: Who or what inspires you right now?
Vaynerchuk: The only one thing that basically inspired me forever and it continues to be the case and it ties into my parents but that’s not the cliché answer. It’s my gratitude for how my life played out. I was born in the Soviet Union and it’s hard for everybody. I was born in a very bad place for human wants and human care. Literally the polar opposite of a place for a young capitalist and entrepreneur. For me to get serendipitously lucky to be able to leave there during the cold war. To have such great parents that my mom parented me so well and my dad work so hard to establish some life for us and give me a foundation for my career and then the health that I’ve had. Unfortunately for me, I lost three of my four grandparents before I knew them. I’m grateful and I’m driven by gratitude.
SXSW: All right a few last minute lightning round questions. What’s your favorite cereal?
Vaynerchuk: Captain Crunch
SXSW: Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Vaynerchuk: Root beer
SXSW: Last great movie you watched?
Vaynerchuk: Dallas Buyers Club
SXSW: Last great book you read?
Vaynerchuk: This one hurts. I’ve only read like six books in my life. I’m getting very close to writing as many as I’ve read. The answer to that question is probably Nine. The story about the Supreme Court.
SXSW: What would people be surprised to find that’s always in your travel bag?
Vaynerchuk: There’s nothing out of the ordinary. The only thing that’s funny is there’s always an extra hoodie because I can’t sleep on a plane unless I pull my hoodie over my eyes.
SXSW: Finally, what’s one not to missed restaurant in Austin, Texas when people are there for SXSW?
Vaynerchuk: So this speaks to how I view Austin, Texas. I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m so there for the people that I don’t even know if I could name a certain restaurant I’ve eaten at even though I know they’re good and great.
Get more insights from Gary V on Friday, March 7 at 12:30 pm at the special Gary Vaynerchuk Tells You How to Rock SXSW session. Also, be sure to attend his Jib Jab Book Signing at 1:40 pm on Friday, Mach 7. For more great ideas on 2014 SXSW Interactive programming, be sure to browse our Recommendations page.