EBBC Episode 10 – The 10% Entrepreneur with Patrick McGinnis

Patrick McGinnisThis week I interviewed Patrick McGinnis, the only other person I’ve ever met who broke the Myers-Briggs scale for extroversion. He’s got some great tips on finding stories and integrating your book with your website, as well as some fascinating insights into the thinking behind his new work, The 10% Entrepreneur. In a world where no job is risk-free, this is a guide to carving out a portfolio life: balancing the security of the day job with the upside and fun of entrepreneurship.


Alison Jones:      I’m delighted to welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club today, Patrick McGinnis. Welcome, Patrick.

Patrick McGinnis:             Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Alison Jones:      Great to have you. Patrick is a venture capitalist at a private equity investor that founded Dirigo Advisors working with investors, entrepreneurs and fast growing businesses on an incredible range of projects, actually. He’s built start ups from the ground up in Silicon Valley and he’s also acted at the other end of the scale as an expert consultant to The World Bank. In his book The 10% Entrepreneur, which we’re going to talk about today, he sets out his philosophy of blending the day job with entrepreneurship and he really walks the talk with an incredibly diverse portfolio of involvement in investment outside his regular work. So Patrick, first tell us what you mean by the 10% entrepreneur and where that idea came from.

Patrick McGinnis:             Sure. A 10% entrepreneur is somebody who spends 10% of their time, and if possible their money, advising, investing, getting involved with on the side while holding down a day job. The idea came to me … actually it came to me because I learned the hard way that it was something that I wanted to do.

In 2008, I was working at the private equity division of AIG, called the AIG Capital. Anybody who was around in 2008, recalls that AIG had a pretty spectacular implosion. My division had nothing to do with any of that. We were simply doing our thing but over night, our business was put up for sale. I found that the stock I had in the company fell by 97%.

Alison Jones:      Whoa.

Patrick McGinnis:             Yeah, that was a good tax write off, I guess. But after that happened I had this revelation that I never wanted to put all of my eggs in one basket, I wanted to diversify myself. As I began to do that I learned that there was more, of course, that there were many more reasons to do this in terms of upside, in terms of enjoyment, in terms of learning and developing skills that would make me more successful throughout all of my career.

Alison Jones:      Yeah, what I love, when I was reading the first part of the book this sort of sinking feeling, you’re saying all the risk involved in being an entrepreneur. Don’t do it, don’t quit your day job and be an entrepreneur.

Patrick McGinnis:             Right.

Alison Jones:      Your own story tells you that there is no freedom from risks. In a sense, you’re taking the venture capital approach. You are diversifying your life portfolio by keeping the steady job, which no one can trust completely anymore, and diversifying the stuff on the side just for fun and as your back up.

Patrick McGinnis:             Precisely. As we live in this economy that we have today where, as you’ve mentioned, there is no safety. Even if you work at a trillion dollar company, which is where I worked, or you work at VW, for example, who recently has gone through so much turmoil. You may find that the name on your CV, the brand on your CV overnight goes from one that’s very prestigious to one that’s not prestigious at all. That’s not the only reason, as you’ve noted. It’s really the fact that we’re living in time where entrepreneurship is so accessible. Why not find a way to plug into that? Recognizing that it is risky, still but also recognizing that you can customize it to your life in a way that no one has been able to do before.

Alison Jones:      The tools, the platform, the infrastructure are there to do that. That mirrors publishing in a sense, of course. It was never possible for you as an author to control the way that you put your content out to the world. Yeah, very similar principles.

Another thing that really fascinated me about your approach in the subject of the book is the way it blends the regular work and the entrepreneurship. We’ve been talking a lot about who business books are for. The fact that when I say business book I tend to mean books for entrepreneurs yet in a previous life, when I talked about business books, I was talking about books on management and leadership, and so on. I think it’s really interesting, I don’t know many books that blend that sweet spot between the two but actually that is the way the world is moving, isn’t it?

Patrick McGinnis:             It is. It’s funny, when I go to the book store … I was in Foyles last week and they’re very kind. They put a bunch of copies of my book in the store.

Alison Jones:      They knew you were coming.

Patrick McGinnis:             They did. I bought a tote from them as a thank you. I noticed they put me in the start-up area, which is great because I think entrepreneurs will understand this book. I am a little intra-category. This is a book about being an entrepreneur, it really appeals to consumers who want to do something entrepreneurial. At the same time, I’m trying to say to people it’s okay to stay in your day job. It’s okay to be entrepreneurial and not be a quote, unquote full time entrepreneur. There are many things you can do, in fact there are many skills you can build that will make you successful. In the entrepreneurial ventures but also back at your day job. Thinking like an entrepreneur these days is so critical, no matter what you are doing. Even if you’re working in a very stayed industry, that industry is probably going to get disrupted in the next couple of years so you need to be thinking ahead of the curve and anticipating that, and reacting to that to be successful.

Alison Jones:      I think that’s so true. Every industry involves disruption. Any career path that you’re going to take that’s going to have any fulfillment with it is going to involve dealing with that, and seeing opportunity and seeing upside. I think it’s fantastic message for people in a company that they don’t actually have to leave the company. It’s a benefit for everyone, it’s a mindset, isn’t it?

Patrick McGinnis:             It is. It’s funny, people said to me in the beginning, “Do you think people will like this book? Employers will be threatened by this and won’t want their employees to read it. Are you concerned about that?” My response was, actually I would anticipate bosses buying this for their teams, eventually. I think it takes little understanding for someone to see how it fits in.

I see this as a tool that could be used within companies. In fact, I was at Google the other day in the UK. I spoke at Google. It was amazing because it really resonated with those employees because we forget that Google is no longer a startup. It’s a massive multinational cooperation. Its employees, like any employee in any company, want to have an entrepreneurial experience but also love the stability that a wonderful company like Google can provide for them.

Alison Jones:      Google has had it for a while, a creativity space, haven’t they? They allow you to work on your own projects. Is it 10% or 15% of your time?

Patrick McGinnis:             They have a 70, 20, 10. The 10 is really on the outside of the day to day. In fact, Google is creating a venture capital fund called Area 120 to invest in their employees own businesses.

Alison Jones:      I love that.

Patrick McGinnis:             Google and I are right in sync right now.

Alison Jones:      Absolutely. That blend of entrepreneurship and creativity are very closely related. I love the Google start up idea. We’re not a start up anymore, we’re a big company but we still want to be start up-ish. They’ve created a forum where they can actually pitch ideas can’t they and the company becomes an early investor and will run with the projects that bubble to the surface.

Patrick McGinnis:             Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Alison Jones:      Really exciting, fantastic. In the book, one thing that I’m particular interested in at the moment is sourcing and using stories. I think this is something that you do brilliantly in the book. You use your own stories but you’ve also used stories from other people about how they’ve implemented that 10% entrepreneurship thing and I just wanted to know how did you go about finding those stories? Did you put out a call to people to come to you or did you look with your writer’s eye at the people in the stories you already knew and see how they could be used in the book?

Patrick McGinnis:             I put out a call, a clarion call as it were, over social media. This is basically Facebook driven. It’s very funny. Facebook driven and word of mouth. I very quickly decided that I was going to ‘Michael Lewis’ this whole thing. What I mean by that, Michael Lewis is a master of finding great stories and bringing them into his books and showing his concepts that he wants to discuss in a very live way. He does it really well and I admire him tremendously.

I decided that what was most important to me, was to find a bunch of people that weren’t like me. I’m one person but I believe that this is a movement and I wanted people who lived in different countries, that were in different phases of their lives and were doing different things all day. I interviewed dozens of people across the world, we were on four continents, nine countries, people in all kinds of different industries. The way that I found them was by putting a note on Facebook saying “Bring me the best people you can, bring me all kinds of different people.”

My friends really responded. Some said, “I want to be in your book,” others said, “I know the perfect person for you.” Every time I would talk to somebody, I did the old interview question trick. The old “can you tell me three people you know who are doing this” sort of thing. Not everybody made it in the book, of course. I had some people that their stories were too similar or I didn’t really feel like they were exciting enough. Some people who weren’t willing to put their name, I required that everyone put their full name so that we can show that this is something that you don’t have to hide. That’s how it happened. I basically interviewed people over a period of three, four, five months, really. It was very educational. Crowd sourcing knowledge is something that is quite powerful. As a writer, it’s a really great tool to bring in fresh ideas on top of your own.

Alison Jones:      I couldn’t agree more, that’s really exciting. What I love about that is, you started where you were. You used Facebook and that six degrees of separation principle. I was thinking, Facebook? But you only connect with the people you already know on Facebook, but I guess they know people, who know people, who know people. There’s something really powerful, isn’t there? Everybody wants to be involved with somebody who’s writing a book. You’ve got to use that.

Patrick McGinnis:             It’s so true. I have become far more interesting to talk to, I would say. Not that I’ve changed but people want to talk to you when you’re writing a book. They want to talk to you about the process. It’s one of these things, and I was the same way with other people, it definitely makes you a more sought-after dinner or cocktail party guest.

Alison Jones:      I love that. Reason 587 to write your book: just immediately become a better dinner party guest.

Patrick McGinnis:             There you go, right.

Alison Jones:      I love it. Actually, interviewing people is such good fun, isn’t it? You always, always come away with a new perspective, insight, thought, idea. It’s a fun thing to do.

Patrick McGinnis:             It really is. I found it very energizing. One of the companies I met through the book, I am now a 10% entrepreneur in that company. It even had a little business angle, shockingly, at the end.

Alison Jones:      Well I’m all about the business angle. I think when you’re writing your book it’s part of your business and you should be embedding that in there so it’s good to hear that. We’ve been talking a lot about introvert and extrovert approaches to writing a book. I do think this is very much, as an extrovert myself, interviewing people is one of the ways I just get my content in. I find it very hard to just sit and write in isolation. I think this is probably an extrovert thing. Would you agree? Do you think you’re an introvert or an extrovert?

Patrick McGinnis:             I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs a couple times. I actually broke the extrovert scale. They had to recalibrate the test for me.

Alison Jones:      I was off the scale on extroversion. I think we can agree that interviewing people is perhaps a good tactic for extroverts writing books. That’s funny. I feel better now, I never met anybody who did that as well. Tell me a little bit about how the book works with your business? We’ve already said you’ve gotten somebody and invested in them, you made a partnership there, which is fantastic. There’s one thing I noticed on your site which I really liked, you asked people to read your book before they book a slot to talk to you. It struck me that on every level that was just a really good way of doing things. You’re making the calls more efficient, you’re pre-qualifying the people who are going to speak to you and you’re selling more copies of the book. That’s genius, I’ve never seen that before.

Patrick McGinnis:             I’m not going to claim that I invented this actually. I got the idea from another writer named Nir Eyal. Nir wrote a book called Hooked. He actually is a Penguin author as well, Penguin Portfolio. He blurbed my book. In the UK version he’s on the front cover and I saw he did that on his website. I thought to myself, “What a great idea.” This is the part where I’m a bit dull I guess because it didn’t even occur to me that it was a great way to sell books. I actually just thought to myself, “I want to be available to people who read this book. I want to communicate, I believe in what I’m doing and I want to help people but I want this to be super efficient.” Talking to people who don’t know the book’s content, I’ll spend the first 10 minutes of our call explaining it. Why don’t I just cut that out of the equation and make our calls far more actionable. That was where it came from. Then, now I realize that was actually a backdoor way of selling books.

Alison Jones:      Smart, double smart that you didn’t think of it before. Has that worked? Have you had different quality of conversations when people have read the book?

Patrick McGinnis:             Most definitely. I think people come with very specific questions when they’ve read the book and they’re actually trying to do this. That’s where I can really add value. General questions, you can read the book and you’ll get it but it’s the question of “what percentage should I ask for?” Or, “What do I do when?” For me, I learn more from them but also we can just get much deeper.

Alison Jones:      I can see that. It’s a benefit all around for them and you. I saw also that you have a quiz on your site so that people can work out what kind of a 10% entrepreneur they are, whether it’s their time or investing or an angel investor or so on. That struck me as a nice lead-building tactic. They have to register to get the email, to get their results.

Patrick McGinnis:             Exactly. I hired a firm that specializes in digital marketing to help me with my site and all of my social and communications. They’ve really been helpful in helping me think through smart ways of building my list and building my community. That was one that was particularly good. You do get people who want to take the quiz who are willing to then sign up to be apart of your community.

Alison Jones:      Absolutely. Basically, if anybody wants some really smart ideas on how to use their book, they should go to Patrick’s site and reverse engineer some of the cool things that he’s doing on there.

Patrick McGinnis:             I am going to also admit, I don’t beat around the bush, I’m pretty straight forward about these things. My website is a mishmash, it’s an amalgamation of all the sites that I loved. For example, I love the site From Zero to One, I thought they built a really great site. We looked at that and took some of the really great things into my site. Why reinvent the wheel when someone’s built something so beautiful?

Alison Jones:      Absolutely. I think that works as well when you’re writing, you’re looking at other books. What do they say? If you copy from one person it’s plagiarism, if you copy from 100 it’s research.

Patrick McGinnis:             On that one, I’ll tell you something, I didn’t read … I was never a prolific reader of business books. I liked the The Lean Start Up and a few others but I read a lot of nonfiction but not a lot of business. When I got the book deal, Penguin was lovely. They sent me about 75 books, I didn’t crack them, I didn’t open any of them. I was really terrified of taking from other people. Mine I hope is somewhat sui generis, I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me, readers, what you think. I tried to do something that was a little different. I was terrified of taking from other people actually.

Alison Jones:      That’s funny, isn’t it? I’m exactly the opposite. I’m a researcher, I look around and see what other people are doing. I like the way they’ve structured that … I guess it’s one or the other, isn’t it? What you definitely shouldn’t do is take one book and think that’s really brilliant, I’m going to copy it.

Patrick McGinnis:             Right, you just need a good editor. If you do my style, which is like the very off the scale let’s go do something completely different, you need a good editor to reign you in. That’s what I luckily had. I was a little Jackson Pollock in terms of the writing.

Alison Jones:      Just chucking paint at the thing. I’d argue that anybody, frankly, needs a good editor, that’s a given. That’s so fascinating. Is there any other ways in which you find the book working with your business, in ways that you’ve planned or ways that have evolved now that the thing’s out there and has its own life?

Patrick McGinnis:             Yes, this is my first time around the publishing world. It’s been a process of learning for me. I have this really misperception that everything would happen the first week. Then, I don’t know, I didn’t know what would happen after but I thought the first week all of a sudden I would be a different person or something. An author gave me a really wonderful perspective on this. She said, “You think it’s all going to happen right away. What you need to do is one year after you’ve written the book, look back and see how your life has changed. You will see that it has changed a lot.” What I’ve been finding, and it’s only been out three weeks now, almost a month in the us, is the long tail kind of stuff.

I’ve had people who’ve come out of the woodwork. Really extraordinary people who’ve somehow found the book and wanted to be in touch with me, and talk to me, and get together. They’ve offered me opportunities to speak to interesting audiences. I have found that the press is great, articles and some coverage. The media buzz feels good and it’s fun but the real value, I think, for me … although it’s unpredictable value, is when people who are really interesting people who you want to be involved with somehow get the book. They then have your ideas on 240 pages that they carry around with them. They’re really able to understand who you are and what you think about and engage with you as appropriate.

Alison Jones:      I don’t think there is still anything that touches the book for the ability to build that kind of trust or relationship and depth of connection, is there? It’s astonishing.

Patrick McGinnis:             You think about the people’s whose books you read, for example The Lean Startup, I don’t know Eric Reis. I read his book and I just think he’s extraordinary. Maybe some people won’t like your book, I certainly think you’re putting yourself out there and it’s very vulnerable in a lot of ways I’d say. There will be people who it really resonates with and it helps. Those people will be your advocates and will go out and pound the table for you. That’s really a valuable resource.

Alison Jones:      Quite frankly it doesn’t really matter about the rest because you’re writing for the people who get it. That’s interesting, you said you felt vulnerable, tell me a little bit about that. Did you have any sense of resistance or fear just before you put the book out there?

Patrick McGinnis:             I had a really interesting conversation with a writer called Lars Korijer, whose based in the UK. His book is called Money Mavericks. He told me that I would learn over time, and I did learn, that you can spend an entirety writing and think it’s really great, wake up the next morning and it’s absolutely terrible. And I’m sure you’ve been through that.

Alison Jones:      Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Patrick McGinnis:             You have to learn to not care, of course, and just trust your gut and your editor. Then, when you do put it out there, there are parts, there will be somebody who says “This person’s arrogant” or “This person thinks that they know better” or “I can’t do this because this person has this educational attainment and I don’t, therefore it’s not practical to me,” or whatever it is. You put so much of yourself into a book. You have to make it good, your voice has to come through and you have to be authentic and let people know who you are. That’s just what it takes to make a great book. I’m somebody who is very straightforward.

I come from the state of Maine where were simple people and we put ourselves out there. I try to put a lot of myself into the book but what’s funny, is that when my brother read it, or my parents, they were saying “Wow you really showed you weren’t afraid to say you failed here. Are you sure you want to talk about when you fail?” My view is, absolutely. You can’t succeed without failing, obviously. We all fail. If I can help somebody through my difficult time, then why shouldn’t I? Of course, you’re putting yourself out there and sometimes you feel a little naked actually.

Alison Jones:      Yeah, I totally get that. It’s really interesting to hear. You’re going at it with your eyes open, you know that, and you still do it, and it still works.

Patrick McGinnis:             In start up world, yes, failure is considered to be very wonderful and we should talk about it and that’s part of the process. In corporate world, nobody wants to talk. You never lead with failure. That was something that was a learned skill for me. People who work in the cooperate world, a law firm. You don’t talk about failure. Right?

Alison Jones:      So interesting.

Patrick McGinnis:             I never thought about that before but it just hit me. My friends are like “What? What are you talking about failure for?”

Alison Jones:      In entrepreneurship, it’s your war wounds. You’re proud of those battle scars, aren’t you? How interesting, perhaps we’ve stumbled upon a real cultural difference. There’s another book in here, Patrick.

Patrick McGinnis:             Either a book or a long blog post.

Alison Jones:      Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference isn’t it? Fantastic. That’s so interesting. Tell me then, for people who are writing their books now, for the first time, and I’m one of them, what’s your best piece of advice for us, for everybody listening who’s in the throes of getting their book written?

Patrick McGinnis:             Great question. I’ve never been asked it. I would say be very careful about showing it to people other than your editor. Have a good editor that you can trust. Every time I showed it to somebody, it actually made it a worse product, I would say. Friends would always have a view point, and they would second guess, and they’re not professionals. You need to trust in your own voice because it’s your project. I had, for example, a friend who made me terrified about certain aspects of the book. In fact, all those things work really well and things respond to them. He got inside my head and he made me afraid. I overcame it but it was really useless for me. Self doubt and writing are basically one and the same. You want to take that out of the picture.

Alison Jones:      That’s fascinating. A couple of weeks ago I talked to Rachel Bridge, she wrote a book called Ambition. She said the first thing she did when she drafted it was send it to her mum. I thought, my goodness, the people who are closest to you are the people who are going to protect you, and whose opinion is going to get under your skin the most. I was really taken aback by that. A editor, absolutely. And I’d probably want to show it to someone in the demographic that I was writing for. If I had somebody in my head that we wanted to test stuff out on them, I think. I agree getting friends to comment on it could be really damaging.

Patrick McGinnis:             It’s interesting. This book was my second proposal, my first proposal went nowhere actually. My agent when we were preparing the first proposal sent it to someone, unknown to me that was the target. The person gave me extraordinarily tough feedback, it was borderline insulting feedback. I did learn that my tone was way off. I guess that was valuable. Friends for me, I felt like, this is going to sound really horrible but I’ll be honest, I felt like some people were more out of their insecurity than they were out of trying to be constructive. That’s natural, we all do that, I do that. We are all there. If your getting people’s comments out of their own insecurities that’s just going to make your product, your book, not a very good product.

Alison Jones:      So be really, really careful about who you speak to. Particularly at the early stages when you’re finding your feet and your voice and all the gremlins are speaking really loudly in your own head. The last thing they need is a little bit of ammunition from someone else, with their own agenda.

Patrick McGinnis:             Once you have the book close to finished, then it gets really tough. You start showing it to people. It’s really good to find typos. Proofreaders, we love you, but they don’t find all the typos. I started showing it to people who would volunteer because they loved looking for typos. Then you start getting… you’re almost done and everyone has an opinion and you’re beyond the point of being able to change it. That also is kind of tough. I don’t want to hear any editorial, just typos please.

Alison Jones:      That’s brilliant, and that’s a really good point. To be really clear when you send it to someone, what you want from them.

Patrick McGinnis:             Yes.

Alison Jones:      And what it is you don’t want from them at any cost! Fantastic. I love that. Who else, Patrick, do you think I should speak to? I always ask a guest at the end of the interview, who they know in the world of business books, ideally. Actually, somebody suggested somebody completely outside the world of business books because they had something interesting to say, who would make a really good subject for an interview or a topic that they’d like me to cover on this show.

Patrick McGinnis:             I have a great one for you, which is a woman I met through the process of writing this book. I got her advice and she was very generous. Her name is Amy Wilkinson and she wrote a book called The Creator’s Code, which is a wonderful, wonderful book about how to be a creative mind in entrepreneurship. She wrote the book based on a bunch of interviews with people like Elon Musk and other real thought leaders. She’s based out of California, she’s at Stanford. She’s travelled the world the last year promoting her book. She’s just a force of nature, I think she would be a really excellent guest for you.

Alison Jones:      Fantastic, I am honoured. I have actually heard of that book but I haven’t read it. So that’s what I will go and do first.

Patrick McGinnis:             Yes, check it out. It’s a really good read. She spent years on this project. She has really great stories about all of the things she went through to publish her book. She really fought for her book and you can tell in the final product.

Alison Jones:      She’s got some good war stories. We always like a good war story. That’s brilliant. Thank you so much, Patrick. That was a really fascinating interview. How can people find out more about, if they want to read the book, find out more about you, where do they go?

Patrick McGinnis:             You can find my book online at Amazon and other book sellers. Of course, you can find it at all the High Street book shops in the UK, also in the US. In terms of finding me online my website is patrickmcginnis.com. There you can take a quiz, figure out what kind of 10% entrepreneur you are, find all kinds of resources, sign up for time to chat with me. Also, you can find me on Twitter @PJMcGinnis and my Facebook page is Patrick J McGinnis, The 10% Entrepreneur. I am very much available online if you’d like to interact with me.

Alison Jones:      I need to set aside longer for this little bit of the interview as people get more and more platforms. Brilliant. That’s fantastic. But please don’t book a session with him until you’ve read the book.

Patrick McGinnis:             Precisely.

Alison Jones:      Absolutely great. Well we’re going to have to leave it there Patrick, I could’ve talked to you all day. Thank you so much, it was a real pleasure having you on the show.

Patrick McGinnis:             So nice to be here Alison, thanks a lot.

Alison Jones:      Take care, goodbye.

Patrick McGinnis:             Bye.


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