In Part 1 of the Founder’s Series, former CEO and current President of Klyxx Creative Zain Khan shares the secret that allowed him to start his own agency at just 22 years old.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin
One single realization that I had when I was 18 has carried me through every tough challenge in both my personal and business life: learning is a skill that has to be developed.
It has led me to build a company in a space I had no prior knowledge or experience in, hire untrained staff and make them experts, and fueled all of my future investments.
Over the course of our whole lives, it’s just accepted that we’re going to go to school and get a degree in something or another. We’re taught a multitude of subjects like Calculus, History, Biology, etc. but never what it really means to "learn" any of those things. As a result, we memorize, cram, and figure out our own systems.
Personally, as I got older, I realized that we live in a world where it's become easier than ever to get ahead without all the usual pre-requisites like experience, credentials, etc.
Learning is a skill - it's not just something we do in school and then are magically prepped for the challenges the world is going to throw at us. If anything, post-school is when learning is actually the most important. School taught us a lot of irrelevant things that the syllabus decided that we needed to know. How many of you are actually using Calculus today? In contrast, school completely forgot to teach us a very relevant life skill - how to do our taxes.
If we don't actively build the learning habit and cultivate the skill, we don't only lose literal money (by doing taxes poorly), but also often fail to reach our goals because “we don't know how to do x or y.”
In this post, I am going to get you going on the right path to building the skill of learning through one of my own experiences.
For the last five years, I have been the CEO of Klyxx Creative, initially a growth agency.
I was a 22 year old fresh graduate when I started it.
I had extremely relevant degrees in Philosophy and History.
The culmination of all of my “growth” experience was a 7 month internship where I got poached from the product team to the marketing team because we had no one else to fill the position.
From that founding, we built Klyxx Creative into a 7-figure agency that handled marketing, design, development, and business strategy for clients like Logitech, Futurism, GlaxoSmithKline, and even participated in hosting a major event at Super Bowl LIV alongside Bloomberg & Sports Illustrated. We did all of this with no funding and by hiring people directly out of college (I was consistently the oldest person in the company outside of 1 hire we brought on 3.5 years in).
Our Chief Creative Officer was a 19 year old in college who was majoring in pre-med at the time and did art on the side.
Our current Chief Operating Officer had majored in finance with a single-minded focus to work in banking.
The majority of our hires were humanities majors in their senior year or first year out of college.
We took a very strong bet on the complete lack of relevance that a lot of people put on “experience” in the industry. The internet changes so quickly - how important is “10 years of experience” in the cutting edge of marketing, design, or E-Commerce strategy?
Instead of looking for experience, we spent all of our time on building processes to do the following:
With these core processes, we grew our company 100% year over year, and purely on referrals.
We were so confident in our work, we offered 100% guarantees for our first month's work to all of our newly signed clients.
We never hired “experts” and we promoted from within.
If we could build a 7-figure agency with a team who had no "credentialed" experience and with no funding, then there is no reason you can't build the same skill and use it to achieve the goals you’re working towards.
Everyone has things that they want to start, and often the reason that they don't is they default to “I don't know how to start,” “I don't have enough experience,” “I need someone who knows how to do this,” or “I need someone to teach me.” Others might defer to “maybe I'm going to go to school for it.” All of those reasons are just different forms of procrastination.
What do you want to learn? Write it down. Be as specific as possible.
Don't focus on what you “want to be,” focus on what skill you want to learn.
Here’s a real life example:
At one point in the early stages of growing Klyxx, I wanted to begin a large hiring round for our company, but at the time had no HR or recruiting experience. My process was to break down the objective into the requisite skills I needed to achieve that goal.
I asked myself the following questions:
The internet has made it easily accessible to find people who are actually doing the things they want to do. More importantly, they're doing it out in public in the forms of books, Youtube, courses, books, blogs, or newsletters.
Like master chefs through cookbooks, they're building their brands by sharing these recipes. Because they understand that in a world so full of noise, attention is the most important thing you can covet.
So, how do you find your first one or two reliable sources for whatever you want to learn?
Often, the best way to do this is to go to somebody who already knows how to do whatever you're trying to learn and ask them who they think is a reliable source. Someone they follow, admire, or keep up with. You'll get one or two names.
Those first couple of names will pave the way to every other useful source that you need. These people will constantly reference other people in the industry, people they look to, or people they collaborate with.
Then, follow the trail of breadcrumbs.
Another real life example:
When I had begun self-learning in the growth space, the industry was very young and there were very few formalized ‘schools’ or programs. I also knew no one in the space. Here was the step by step process I went through:
We all live in this world where we think that if we've read a blog post, listened to a podcast, or sat in a lecture, we've somehow not only taken in the information, but digested it and come out with something useful to take action with.
Over and over and over again by so many studies, that's been proven false.
Here are a few:
For every podcast you listen to, every blog post you read, or every video you watch, take notes. Actively try to digest the information and write it down in your own words just like you would while studying for an exam.
Let's be clear - the only reason we took notes in school was to help us remember information when we were tested on them. In real life, the test is your job, your investments, or your business. The stakes are a lot higher and we're all doing a pretty bad job of studying.
The exact strategies and processes that work for me are the topics for another post (for now, use whatever technique works for you).
The final and most important step is by shortening the time you spend between learning and action.
Reading, learning, and planning can become the most dangerous forms of procrastination. We think we're making “progress” by just thinking or understanding the theory when in reality we've made absolutely nothing. Therefore, we’ve really done absolutely nothing.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” - Herbert Spencer
Don't forget the aim of the learning. As soon as you've finished a book, video, blog, or course, find a way to do something with it immediately.
After you get in the habit of: 1) finding a good source, 2) actively learning with note-taking, and 3) putting it into immediate action, you'll begin to realize that the cycle naturally repeats itself. Whether they succeed or fail, you’ll have more information to go back to step 1 and improve upon your work. That’s the real point of the cycle.
Here’s one last (hypothetical, but very real) life example:
This is the beginning of a series that will focus on the learnings that I have gained as a founder & former CEO at Klyxx. It will cover some of our biggest past mistakes, our greatest successes, and document the learnings we have accumulated along the way.
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