Duane Brown is the Founder and Head of Strategy at Take Some Risk Inc, a performance marketing agency helping eCommerce, DTC, and SaaS brands scale PPC. He has years of experience working across digital marketing and branding for clients including ASOS, Mopp, Telstra, Jack Wills, Cineplex, Unbounce, and WealthBar. Opportunities that have given him the chance to work with large data sets and help advise global brands on the best approach to using PPC, CRO, and data while maintaining budgets.
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 Toronto and moved about 13 times before I was 18. I’m very organized and can pack a house in no time flat. I also love IKEA and putting together their furniture. I grew up with my mom and brother and not tons of money. I’m a big believer in saving and having a safety net. Also, I understand the value of a dollar because that may be all you have. There is no fallback plan growing up. Making the right or best choices and making sure you can support yourself is important.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Working all the time in my 20s was not always worth it. Not every place I work respected what I did or the skills I had. Being a Gen Y and living through a few recessions and once-in-a-lifetime events. Getting pickery was going to be important to be happy but to continue in marketing and advertising and stay sane.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Working all the time and having side projects and just the hustle culture is how you get ahead. Burnout and lack of sleep is what lead to most people not getting ahead. That and office politics. Get your sleep, sleep is a superpower. Many think their job title and where they work is important than the work they actually do. I know some places care about that but we are shifting to a remote/digital-first and results-oriented work environment (ROWE). Middle managers are on notice… if you can not execute…. then why are you even in your job?
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?
I don’t know about dark but I can talk about stressful times in my life. I was living in the UK and running marketing for a startup. About 3 months into the job, one of the co-founders worked with the lead dev and changed the entire site. However, they didn’t tell anyone else on the team or in the company. We were about 20-ish people at that point. I came in the next day and our sales fell off a cliff the night before. I stressed for hours trying to figure out what was wrong.
About 2 hours in I checked out the site as it was the only place I had not looked after reviewing Google Ads, our tech stack, and Google Analytics multiple times. I saw the new site and my heart sank. I re-pulled data and called a meeting after talking with our CX team. I thought maybe CX knew about the new site but they didn’t and they were getting tons of calls from unhappy customers.
I spent the next 2 weeks fighting the dev, 2 co-founders, and the PR manager to change it back. I knew if we didn’t we would all be out of a job. However, some people who challenged the co-founders got fired in the past. I know me standing up for our customers and using data to show why the new site was awful was important…. even if my job was at risk. I rather do what is right, even when it is not easy if it means happy customers. I won in the end and an A/B test proved it but it was not the easiest moment in my career.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
The focus on learning and growing my skillset has been a big contributor to my success. I often took jobs that would teach me something or let me sit in a new seat at a big table. My CV can look all over the place but in the end, it has been about understanding marketing and business and how they work together.
What is your morning routine?
I’m a morning person and wake up at 7 am. Been doing this since I lived in Australia and then the UK. Wake up, look at Twitter and then shower and that sort of stuff. I drink some juice and then I head to work. I have breakfast at work while going through emails and figuring out my day. I have a set of work clothes, so I pull down something from the closet … means I don’t have to think about what I do in the morning.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Getting sleep and going to bed at 10:30 pm each night. Few people can properly function on little to no sleep. I’m a better person when I get enough sleep and can think. Trying to be consistent with my healthy habits and build routines in my life, so I can think about things less. I do laundry on weekends and grocery shop Saturday morning. Having processes for all these life tasks means I just do them and not think about doing them.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I try to focus on what I’m trying to achieve and where I want to go. I look at the options before me and try to pick the tasks, projects, or opportunities that are going to get me there. Trying to be everywhere and do everything is the fastest way to go nowhere and spin your wheels. Focus is a good way to be productive. Plus managing my emails and keeping those organized is a timesaver most people don’t realize.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I read this a few years ago but the Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes is something I think about a lot. It’s all about saying yes to things that scare you but also saying yes to the right opportunities. There are more opportunities, projects, tasks, and noise coming into our inbox each day and we can not say yes to everything. The last few years have been making sure I understand if I say yes to X, what am I and our team giving up in the future.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Similar to above, say yes to things that scare you. You will be better off in the long run.