Michael Lam is the Founder and CEO of Kaydoh, a company that helps businesses convert their online visitors into tangible leads through live chat automation. He is also a real estate investor, and during his extra time, he enjoys mentoring college students, young entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I remember growing up where I tried to play basketball, and I was first introduced to it through a P.E session with a group of people I didn’t know. I had ZERO clues about what to do with the basketball. It was a disaster to say the least (bouncing the ball on my feet, going the wrong direction, passing it off to the wrong team) From that point on (elementary school), I devoted my time to play better. Over the summer, I just kept playing by myself almost every afternoon for hours. Practice dribbling, shooting, playing 1v1. I eventually got good enough where I started to team up with my best friend to play 2v2 for money. After watching “White Men Can’t Jump” we literally mirrored that ?, and yes, we won ?. Ever since learning how to play and becoming good, I’ve carried that with any new project, a new category, a new venture. Experience can be gained with practice. The hardest part is “practice.” If you can put in the work, you will get the experience you’ll need to be successful. Most fail at putting in the actual work.
What is something you wish you would have realized earlier in your life?
I wish I was more focused in middle school and early high school. I know that’s really early to start thinking about the future, but knowing what I know now, it would have been valuable if someone sat me down to talk about my vision where I’m at, and where I want to go. I took the easy route and just did enough to pass my classes. I didn’t think long-term and the benefits of graduating high school earlier. Knowing that I would eventually run my startup, I wish I took the AP classes that would have shaved some time off. I was never the party-type, so while in college I should have taken more classes to finish faster. I also wish I realized how important it was to build your network while in college, identifying like-minded people. Instead, while in college I hang out with people I liked but not necessarily people that could add value to the network while having a good time. I believe you can have both.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Follow the money” is something I do not agree with. VCs will tell you to do that. Ultimately, they care about their return not whether you contribute to society or solve a problem. Even if you do it needs to be such a 10x problem otherwise they do not care about just solving “a problem” because the money is not there. If there is big money, the general advice is to chase it. I believe many entrepreneurs start-up for the wrong reason. Generally, it’s to get that big paycheck without realizing the painful work involved. The long journey that most go through. We only hear about the unicorns that are rare. It is fascinating to read but not reality and not the norm. Instead, the advice I’d give is to follow the problem first. The money will eventually follow you if you solve the problem. Come in looking to solve a problem before monetizing your solution.
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?
Startup life is extremely lonely. I am a single-person founder at Kaydoh, a fully bootstrap startup for the past couple of years. Many times, there is self-doubt, but I remember during the 2nd year of Kaydoh early on, I felt the company pivoted to a better solution but was not getting the traction we needed. Everything I was doing was drying up, consumers were not using our product, leads were not coming in, partnerships were getting cold. I felt like Kaydoh was going to go down under. I just kept plugging away, kept trying to add value to my network, offer training workshops on marketing. Using my marketing expertise to strengthen the relationship of my partners and kept just offering my expertise without selling Kaydoh. Eventually, this turned out to be the right move and we got into a program run by a fortune 500 company that is launching us Nationally in 2021.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Staying surrounded by positive people to uplift you. It can by your family, your partner, your children, your advisor. When you are surrounded by positive people, it fends off the natural negativity that comes with startup life. The entire lifecycle of a startup is very demanding, lonely, lots of self-doubting. You need someone to lean on, to get their feedback, and really to tell you that ‘it’s okay to whatever you are going through. You should not need motivation, but positive people influence your mindset and keep you focused.
From a tactical standpoint. I believe having a good understanding of the product development cycle, the ability to look at a problem from a bird’s eye view, to see how solutions can be stitched together to come up with POCs extremely fast and get into product development has been key to Kaydoh moving fast and learning quickly.
What is your morning routine?
Generally, I am up between 6:00 am – 7:00 am, depending on what my day was like prior. With 4 daughters to attend to while running Kaydoh, it is a bit hectic, to say the least. Generally, I always make my coffee in my office (French press), spend the initial 30 minutes praying, giving thanks, and offering my day to God, and remind myself there is nothing thrown at me that I cannot handle. After my prayers are done, it’s non-stop from 7 am – 6 pm, then I start back up for another hour between 9 pm-11 pm (meeting with an offshore team) before I go to bed before midnight.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
When I started waking up early, I became much more focused while doing intermittent fasting. The combination of the two is quite powerful and I did not realize it until I decided to embark on that. I have struggled to wake up before 9 am daily, just because I would generally stay up late with my daughters, spending time with them. I started to realize a routine was happening and my results at work were not getting the return I needed. Once I started to implement a hard schedule to ending everything close to 10 pm-11 pm, I would try to get and fall asleep by 11 pm. Doing that allows me to wake up at 6 am daily consistently. The intermittent fasting just came naturally from working this bootstrap startup life. So much to do and often your lunch gets skipped or skimped.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
It’s especially important to set your daily goals. Write them out, what you got to do, and use a ‘check-off’ system. As you finish check them off to stay motivated. I love using JIRA for our software development management, but I use it to also for personal task tracking. Without goals, you will just randomly do things, many things but never finish.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
This book changed my mindset on what it “takes” to be financially set. Growing up I had this perception of what a financially set individual does, generally in high-paying jobs, founders of companies. I don’t remember exactly when I read it but it was early before my real estate investing journey. I realized more of how it’s just as important to save money than it is to make money. It falls in line to what Robert Kiyosaki, another person who influenced me early on in changing my mindset as an entrepreneur. He says, “It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for”
This book really goes deep into what it’s genuinely like running a startup and how media paints the wrong realistic picture of a startup journey. It is a candid look at Rand’s journey starting Moz, all of his mistakes, challenges, and how he overcame them. It really puts into perceptive the life of a startup entrepreneur. This is a book I highly recommend everyone read before they start their startup journey.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
This is something I have said early on, not sure if it’s from someone or I just made a variation of it, but I’ve always lived by these two mottos
“Decisions you make today dictates your future” – I constantly live by this and teach my 4 daughters about this. Being lazy today destroys your future, being caught cheating today will sabotage your opportunities. Putting in hard work today will blossom in the future. Saving your money today will let you take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
“Follow the 51/49 principle” – This means to always give more than you take back. We live in a world of plentiful and with a mindset like that, you’ll contribute more to the world than you take back. There is always enough for everyone, so share your knowledge, build those relationships, and opportunities will follow you.