Ep421: Dennis Yu – Dream Big, Start Small

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Quick take

BIO: Dennis Yu is the CEO of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that partners with schools to train young adults.

STORY: Dennis had a very good idea for a program, and once he launched it, he got more customers than he anticipated. Unfortunately, he was not able to execute the program well, and so it failed.

LEARNING: Just because you’re good in one business doesn’t mean you will automatically be good in another. Have a system in place to help you execute your ideas.


“Never overestimate the level of preparation you need to anticipate when executing an idea.”

Dennis Yu


Guest profile

Dennis Yu is the CEO of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that partners with schools to train young adults. He’s a former Yahoo search engine engineer who optimizes ads and analytics across search and social that he’s turned into training to create good jobs for aspiring digital marketers.

Worst investment ever

Dennis started a digital marketing agency and launched it at a conference. He got so many people who paid about $2,000 to come into the program. Dennis hired a CEO and a couple of VAs to run the program.

As luck would have it, the program attracted so many customers. Unfortunately, the program got destroyed by having too many customers. The team Dennis hired wasn’t able to execute the program, and eventually, he had to shut the thing down. Dennis had put in $100,000 into the program, and shutting it down was painful.

Lessons learned

  • Just because you’ve been successful in another kind of business doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful in a different or even a similar one.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • Have a tight process and people who know how to operate in that process.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • As you start your business, be sure to manage your risks.
  • Ideas are one thing; execution is another. Have systems in place that will help you to execute your ideas.

Actionable advice

Start small, but still dream big.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Dennis’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to launch 10 agencies. He has already launched three of them, and they’re going in the right direction.

Parting words


“By sharing your failures, people respect you more, and they’re more likely to hire you.”

Dennis Yu


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it to join our community go to my worst investment ever.com and receive the following five free benefits first, you get the risk reduction checklist I've created from the lessons I've learned from all my guests. Second, you get my weekly email to help you increase your investment return. Third, you get a 25% discount on all a Stotz Academy courses. Fourth, you get access to our Facebook community to get to know guests and fellow listeners. And finally you get my curated list of the Top 10 podcast episodes. Fellow risk takers This is your worst podcast hosts Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Dennis you, Dennis, are you ready to rock? Let's do it, Andrew and everybody. Super excited to get you on. And I'm really interested in what you do. And I want to introduce you to the audience. Dennis, you is the CEO of Blitz metrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults. He's a former Yahoo search engine engineer who optimizes ads and analytics across search, and social that he's turned into training to create good jobs for aspiring digital marketers. Dennis, take a minute and Phil any further tidbits about your life.

Dennis Yu 01:28
I'm a math guy. I'm an Asian, I learned English. When I was six, I had a nearly perfect score on the LSAT. And I've always thought that there's numbers, and there's formulas behind everything. And that's why things like American Airlines with all the data there. Or when Yahoo first started, I was one of the first people there and built the analytics, I always thought things were about data and systems and processes. And I was just very lucky to be in the right place at the right time for things like Yahoo for Facebook's ad system launching and a lot of things in social media, and been really cool to train up lots of people who are starting their digital agencies or starting their career in digital marketing, to be able to create real work experience for the students. And then people that are not so young, especially with COVID times so that they can get real certification just like you become a pilot or a doctor or mechanic.

Andrew Stotz 02:18
That's exciting. I mean, one question I have is like do you have to have a structured thinking and math thinking to do this type of let's say Facebook ads or that type of thing? Or is it just it's very helpful? How would you view that?

Dennis Yu 02:31
It's an art and a science. So if you're flying a plane, certainly there's science that you can't ignore about the physics of the aircraft, but then you can do aerobatics. There's different ways you can fly, you can be creative, once you have a fundamental mastery of the basics. So if you, for example, are an artist, you can be creative. But you still have to understand how oil and paint and how the different tools and the materials and everything you have to understand those kinds of fundamentals. If you want to be a surgeon, certainly there's a lot of creativity. Now there's a lot of innovation that's happening with things like stem cells and new cosmetic laser treatments that are coming out. But there's still science and if you don't respect that science, you're going to kill patients.

Andrew Stotz 03:14
That's a great description, art and science. And let me ask you another question on this. Before we get to the big question. And that is, a lot of my listeners, you know, would love to do more on Facebook as an example. And people like myself, every time I dip my toe into Facebook ads, I feel like I'm just donating money to Mark Zuckerberg. And I just curious, you know, what, what is like your advice for absolute beginners or people that are trying to figure out Facebook,

Dennis Yu 03:42
there's nothing to figure out about Facebook, with Facebook, or Google or YouTube or Instagram or Snapchat or tik tok, they all follow the same principle, they are free to use by the users, because they get ads that are paid for by marketers and advertisers like us. So when we put money into the machine, we need to understand what the machine is doing with that. Because you're not just going to go to Las Vegas and put all the money on the slots or bet at all on red. That would be gambling, which is not entrepreneurship, instead, understand that the system wants to show content to whoever is most likely to engage. So if you put your analytics in place, so the system understands what a patient or what a conversion, or what a sale, or what a lead or whatever that valuable thing is that you're looking for, if the system understands what that is and how it's worth, and it's tracked properly, and you put the right ingredients into the system. And this is going to sound slightly esoteric. But this is key to understand. When you let the customers do the work for you. And you put in their feedback, their video you put in your knowledge, then the system will optimize for you. So if you don't have this kind of system, if you don't put the right ingredients inside the machine, then you might as well just if you're cooking, let's say you're following the recipe, you have random ingredients mixed together in a random way for a random amount of time at a random temperature. how likely are you going to get Chicken cacciatore

Andrew Stotz 05:01
I think you've described my my dilemma that's beautifully

Dennis Yu 05:04
described. And it's not a Facebook issue, you need to understand how to use the system. And it's actually not that hard if you use the search engine, if you use the social network the way it was meant to be, the system will do the work for you. I think of it like a bread machine. So maybe, Andrew, you like cinnamon raisin bread, right fresh out of the oven, right. And so you know, the bread machine, you put the right ingredients in there, you select cinnamon raisin bread from the menu, and you press the button start. And then the system will do everything and 45 minutes an hour later it comes out, it opens a dings at you right or a washing machine and it's not going to be a donut.

Andrew Stotz 05:42
Or it's not going to be meatloaf because right ingredients. I understand the system I've pressed the right buttons. That's a great

Dennis Yu 05:49
recipe. Great description. everything to do with digital now is the recipe you follow the recipe with the right ingredients. And you properly know how to use the techniques so you don't cut your fingers off then it's going to work for you a lot of people they think it's you know Voodoo, or they they're going to bring bad ingredients in we'd like to say you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shipped hockey. It's not a breadmaker, it's the you don't have the right ingredients. You don't have the recipe you're not skilled in using tools. Yep.

Andrew Stotz 06:18
And by the way, what's the best way for the listener who likes what you're talking about to get in touch with you or understand your services.

Dennis Yu 06:26
So you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, or Twitter or Instagram. If you want to look to hire us directly, then you can email me Dennis at Blitz metrics COMM And I answer that personally.

Andrew Stotz 06:38
Perfect. All right, well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be tell us a little bit about the circumstances leading up to it. Then tell us your story.

Dennis Yu 06:49
I started a digital marketing agency. And I thought I would put it around chiropractors and I got at chiropractor's. And I launched it a conference we got at these folks that paid about $2,000 to come into the program. And I put a CEO on it, I hired a couple of days. And a few months later, the whole thing fell apart. Because we didn't follow our systems and processes. And we got destroyed by having too many customers, you can imagine a lot of people they fail because they didn't have enough customers, they didn't have more product market fit. We had something that everybody wanted, all these people signed up, and we just weren't able to execute. In fact, we did very little work and eventually had to shut the thing down. And it was a you know, an ugly, political kind of situation. And you can imagine when a business fails, the kind of you know, finger pointing the politics that occurs. But I put in, you know, almost a year of my life, I put in $100,000 a bunch of people got paid and even ran off with money, ran off with equipment did all kinds of things when they thought that there was this kind of opportunity, and there is no management, I was supposed to be the manager, I did not do my part.

Andrew Stotz 08:05
So let's review the lessons that you learn from them.

Dennis Yu 08:09
Well, first off, just because you are a practitioner, and you know how to do something, doesn't mean other people know how to do that. Just because you've been successful in another kind of business doesn't mean you're going to be successful in a different kind of business or a similar kind of business. And I also learned that in the world of social media, there's a lot of influencers, you know, a lot of people are self declared social media influencers. They're authors, speakers, coaches, a lot of these folks are not actually business owners in terms of running teams, they're solo consultants sorts of people. So it's kind of funny, because the people that you hear the most from, are often the people who don't have underlying businesses and teams of managers and workers and all that to be able to run them. Because if they did, they wouldn't be out there speaking all the time, or hanging out on clubhouse and these other sorts of places. And I learned that he should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. And I tend to be an optimist where somebody says, If you give me this business, I promise I'm going to be able to watch over it. I'm going to care for it like it's mine. I'm going to grow it. I'm going to follow your processes. But then if they don't, you need to have a backup process. So when I was in the airline industry 25 years ago, the CEO was my mentor, which is great. How Casey? And he told me that there's something called flow explained to me something called OSL. Have you heard of this off schedule operations? No. So how many times have you been to the airport and the flights late? Or the there's a weather pattern, or a flight attendant doesn't show up? or something's wrong with the reclining seat where there's all kinds of little things that could happen along the way, but the flights generally don't crash. And that's because there are backup avionics. that's because there's backup crew. There's backup aircraft, there's backup processes, and there's even tertiary, and you know, fourth level failsafe, so if something goes wrong, there's always this kind of backup. I've learned the hard way. And I'm still learning that as an entrepreneur, when something goes wrong, you have to anticipate in advance what those problems are, and put systems in place. And thus you hope for the best you give these young adults an opportunity to be a 23 year old CEO or something like that. But at the same time, if they fail, you need to be there to be able to rescue the situation. And that requires planning. That's why systematically you have to map out not just your processes and how things are supposed to work in perfect situations. But what happens if anyone person doesn't do their part? What happens if a virtual assistant doesn't edit their video? What happens if somebody locks you out of the bank account? What happens if somebody steals clients? What happens if somebody doesn't show up to a meeting? What happens if we don't get access to, you know, the Google account and website to build to make landing pages? What happens? Is it see you it's not that we want to be pessimists. But the lesson I've continued to learn in the last 30 years, and I'm just still learning every day, is that you can never overestimate the level of preparation, you need to anticipate, you know, it's kind of like the you that when you solve for it, it's over. What is it keep it simple, stupid, where you solve a problem that you think you know what I've made this thing, idiot proof, right? I've thought of all the possibilities, and then they surprise you by coming up with ways that I cannot believe I didn't, I just took that for granted. Right? I took it was an assumption. Of course, people know how to do this. And so when you make assumptions, that's when you get yourself into trouble. And you've got to make it so simple. And even something as simple as building a website. For a chiropractor, we have a template, we take the items, the pictures, the phone numbers, you know the information about the services they have, stick it in a template, upload it, QA it, make sure it's working, run some ads to it, you would think that that's not that hard. But then every little step along the way you find out, there's actually hundreds of little steps along the way of things you might take for granted. And when you try to do that at scale, across 80 clients, and 30, team members, and all kinds of other things that happen along the way, it becomes a disaster, if you don't have really tight process, and people who know how to operate in that process and management on top of that. And I've discovered that, whether it's a digital marketing agency, or a software startup or E comm, that the common failures, and all of us that are willing to be honest about their worst investment, a lot of the common failures are around not knowing how to manage or being so successful that you run out of money because cash flow, right, because I'm on paper, you're doing well. But cash flow, you know, it's different, or other things that that, that people will think are based on personality or, or some kind of personal attack, when really, it's just not knowing how to manage high other people how to hire, train, fire, you know, this this kind of thing a lot. Largely, it's a people issue, it's what I've learned is you need the highest quality people possible, and everyone's gonna fight for talent. It's not just digital marketing.

Andrew Stotz 13:06
So let me summarize a couple of things I take away, I mean, the first thing is that you're talking about risk management. And that's the whole purpose of this podcast is to talk about our mistakes, so that we can say, you know, for the listeners out there and don't make these mistakes. Also, you know, the other thing that made me think a lot about is the idea, you know, there's people you know, there's many people I think my I'm one of them that has had lots of ideas. But ideas are one thing, execution is another. And that's an example that I have of a course that I created. First I started by writing a PowerPoint of kind of what I wanted to talk about, then I asked a bunch of my friends to come together. And I rented a little room at a hotel and said, even chip chip in you know, 50 bucks, whatever, 20 bucks. And then I gave that presentation. And then later I iterated through it. And then I wrote a book. And then I took the book, and then I created it into an online course. And it was like, a sustainable process to develop that starting with something. So I always sometimes I have some staff with new things, and we get on the stage and they say, I'm only able to get 10 people in the room for this particular thing. And I say fantastic because I'd rather you know, disappoint 10 people than disappoint 100. So I think that's pretty much the biggest lesson I take out of it. Um, so based upon what you've learned from this story, and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Dennis Yu 14:31
Start small, but still dream big. So one of the things I think it's the Navy SEAL, say is slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. And often we're in such a hurry because of FOMO because we feel like there's a first mover advantage because we're going to run out of time. I look at the most successful people I know and they've been at their game before they became famous or whatever you want to call it. It took them all a decade. Yeah. And dream. The thing is when you start with just Start with his five customers, make sure you take care of them. And then let that five turn into 50. And let the 50 turn into 500. Amen, we did, we made the mistake, spoke on stage got 80 clients all at the same time, we were bottleneck, we couldn't handle all of them, then each of them were calling me. So my phone was blowing, blowing up, I was trying to answer all of them. But while I was there trying to tell them that we still care, you know, think about this, right, Andrew or anyone else listening, where you're trying to spend time doing the work, trying to manage the people trying to make sure everything's running, but then you have clients. And when the clients aren't happy, then they call you directly. But if they're calling you, and you're constantly meetings with these clients, but you're not, then you're not able to talk to your managers, and your managers aren't getting help to be able to help out the team members of Team members that need help, then stuff escalates back to you. So you have more requests than you could possibly handle. And then Meanwhile, the managers think that you don't care, because you're busy with the clients, the clients think that you don't care, because you're you, they don't realize that there are one of several 100 people that are all asking for your time, right?

Andrew Stotz 16:06
It just makes that statement, you said Dream Big Start small just really, really has an impact in this case. So last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months,

Dennis Yu 16:16
we're going to launch 10 agencies. And we've already launched three of them, and they're going the right way there.

Andrew Stotz 16:22
So you're starting, you're starting with three.

Dennis Yu 16:24
And the key is, instead of putting, you know, a 20, something CEO, with no experience, I put in place managers who have who, you know, have a decade plus in managing experience. And even if they don't know anything about digital marketing, I found that when you scale the business, and I look at anybody who's got a business with multiple people, not just them, but dozens of people all as part of a process, I can always see that there's a CEO, there's some kind of business manager running the ship. Because there's a CEO who's about the vision, about sales, about doing deals about speaking being a public figure. And then there's a CEO, project manager type who's making the details happen, it's almost like you, you have an artist here, and you have an accountant here. And if someone's a good accountant, they're probably not a great artist. In fact, you don't want them to probably go to like fraudulent sources, you don't want them to be creative with the accounting, right? You want them to be reliable and disciplined and follow the rules and this kind of thing. But someone who's like this, who's very much by the book, and all that is probably not going to inspire people and get more customers and innovate. And so I find that for me, I'm better at teaching, I'm better at editing, I'm better at doing deals because we have great opportunities with other people. And I'm a lousy manager. But what I've done after this failure, which taught me so much, right, because you either get a blessing or you get a lesson, right? I found that I'm just going to instead of trying to work on the thing that I suck at, which is managing, I'm going to find other people who are really good at managing and just put them in charge. And then I'm going to do what I do and they do what they do.

Andrew Stotz 18:04
Great lessons. All right listeners, there you have it another story of laws to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listeners to reduce risk and increase return in your life. And I'd say we did a little bit of that today by talking about, you know, risk reduction here. To achieve this, I've created our community and my worst investment ever.com and I look forward to seeing all of you there. As we conclude, Dennis, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever. Hindi your best teaching moment Chev. any parting words, for the roaring audience.

Dennis Yu 18:45
This is gonna sound counterintuitive, but I found that by sharing your failures, people respect you more, and they're more likely to hire you. Because the people out there who are selling are all trying to pretend that they're perfect. And no one knows. I mean that we know that that's not real. And I found that by exposing the mistakes I've made, exposing things that have worked and not worked has been the best, surprisingly selling technique, because people will then trust you. People then see so think guys out there and girls, what is it that you do? And what are things that you can talk about that help people understand what it's like running your particular type of business? And behind the scenes where where people don't understand things that appear monotonous to you can actually be super fascinating. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with Matthew janousek, who's the CEO of escape fitness, and he's one of the top equipment manufacturers, a fitness equipment, right? If you go to the gyms, a lot of the stuff that his stuff, and I found I was talking with him a couple years ago, and he said, yeah, we have a few factories in China. And they're pouring the metal to make the barbells and all this and he said that that's boring. You don't want to hear about that. Like No, no, I want to understand like how did you set up the factories and how did you come up with the polyurethane coatings on the barbells and dumbbells. And that's fascinating like setting up a factory? And how do you manage those people and the shipments and the containers? And how do you price things like, so then he did a little documentary a little behind the scenes on that. And that's helped him grow his brand. And the same thing for me, right? I've documented behind the scenes on what is it like to do digital marketing, to build websites to run ads to hire people to go to the Philippines, which is not, you know, far from where you are and true, we hire an army of people from the Philippines do this kind of work. And people found that fascinating. And I thought, No one wants to hear about our process for hiring people that are three bucks an hour, and that's all they do. But I'd ask you guys, right, not just Andrew or me, but what is it that you do all the time that you might think is boring and monotonous? put it out there and show things that have worked and not worked? And even if you think it's kind of embarrassing, as long as it's not illegal or something like that, you're going to find people will really gravitate towards that and find it fascinating.

Andrew Stotz 20:54
You know, I'll just tell you a quick story. I invited a lot of people to come on the show. And one of my best responses. I remember that memorable. The guy said, Great idea, not my style. And I thought yeah, you know, the people that are on this podcast now, almost more than 400 people now are people who are willing to discuss the mistakes that they made. And I definitely believe what you say is that that willingness and that sincerity, makes people feel like I can trust this person. So for the listeners out there, go to the website and crawl through all the different people I've interviewed. Those are the people that have this sincerity, that will be sincere when things are going wrong when they're going right. And that's the person you want to work with. So that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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