Dave Williams is recognized as one of the leading pioneers in online media, social media advertising, and search engine marketing. He is the Chairman, CEO & Co-Founder at NOMADX, a company which mission is to revolutionize the way remote work travelers, or “Digital Nomads”, live, work, and travel the world. Dave and his wife Jen, spent years traveling the world where they saw an opportunity to improve upon the ease of finding affordable, midterm housing and immediate connection to the local community for slow traveling freelancers, location independent entrepreneurs, and remote employees.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Wilmington Delaware. Growing up I was always starting businesses from lawn care when I was in 1st grade, to lawn mowing, to window washing, to lemonade stands, to shoveling snow from the driveway. I was always looking for ways to make a buck.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That your ultimate job as the CEO and Founder is to build a company that’s not reliant on you and that can function without you. Ultimately, if you want to build value for the sale of a company, then the more the company can function without you, the more value you have built.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The biggest issue I see entrepreneurs face is that they go too broad, or try to take on too much in the early stages of a business. It’s my suggestion that you should be flexible in your approach, but once you see where the opportunity is, you should super focus on that opportunity and put blinders on to avoid distractions. Ultimately, you want to be in a position where you can be #1 in your category before you broaden/diversify your focus.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Whenever I enter a dark period, I really try to focus on the issue at hand and minimize all other life distractions. I try to put all of my energy and focus into what it is I need to accomplish. If I need some space to relax, I really love long-distance hiking as it helps me to think more deeply about the issue. The darkest period for me was when I had everything I had invested in my last startup BLiNQ Media and with only a couple of months of cash left before we sold the business to Gannett, a Fortune 500 company. I learned to never put everything you have into one business, as it can easily bankrupt you and ruin your life, but if you can do it on your own, then there are significant financial rewards on the other side.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Back when I went to graduate business school in 1996 at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, I focused my studies on internet businesses and marketing. This was a time when Internet commerce was first getting started and helped me to launch my first company 360i which was one of the first digital marketing agencies which we ultimately sold in 2005 to an NYC-based advertising company. This grad school experience really helped to accelerate my career trajectory and to get the skills to succeed in the early “dot com” stages of the internet industry.
What is your morning routine?
I’m more of an evening person, so generally, I wake up around 8/8;30, work for a couple of hours, then go for a surf, walk or a run, have lunch, back to back calls, and meetings from 2-6 pm, work for a bit from 6-8 pm on any loose ends, and typically go to bed around 10/11 pm.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I have always worked hard to understand emerging industries and then how best to position myself to play a role in this new industry, whether it was starting 360i – a search engine marketing agency in 1998 before Google, positioning BLiNQ Media to become a top 5 global advertising partner with Facebook back in 2008, or most recently starting NomadX as an accommodation platform for digital nomads back in 2017.
I always work really hard to get in very early to rapidly growing and disruptive industries, then focus on a niche where I can accel. I do this by keeping a close eye on emerging trends in the industry, studying the past of these industries, and predicting the future for which I’d like to create. Then, once getting started early, I usually look to exit the business within 5 years by selling it to a larger company with the resources to most rapidly expand the business.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I’m not a productivity freak as I try to leave my schedule very open except for scheduled calls in the afternoon and personal time. I like to look at each day as a fresh day and focus my energies on the highest priority areas that are most in need of my focus. Then, I like to hire experts to take care of all the major critical areas of the business.
My typical role is usually to lead strategy, sales & marketing, business development, accounting & finances and to help promote the business in the industry. I like to create a work environment where everyone in the company has an equity interest or stock options, health & wellness is a priority and I like to offer a lot of autonomy to let people do their best work where they feel like owners in a fast-growing startup. It’s only when things aren’t going right that I will step in to offer my opinion and course correct.
I really believe in hiring passionate people that have a strong track record and letting them do what they do best. If someone isn’t working out, I also like to fire quickly, and course-correct as startups are already difficult enough with a great team. I’m also happy to take on a task in the early stages of the startup, as necessary to survive and thrive!
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, this book really helped me to understand the importance of empathy and relationships in selling.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Focus to a fault. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.