We had the good fortune of connecting with Branko Kral and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Branko, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I like doing hard things, I like a challenge. My parents engraved ambition in me, and then I gained a level and variety of skills, so easy things don’t cut it for me. To keep myself in check, I’m conscious about only picking hard things that energize me. And when you think about it, hard things will inherently be risky. A part of the definition of something that’s hard to do is that you’re not sure what the outcome will be. So I find myself drawn to risk. Further, risk is what helps you break out of the ordinary. You need to steer away from the ordinary, you need to think for your own way, to create great things. Otherwise you’d just create ordinary things. This is another reason I find myself drawn to risk.
But I’m also analytical and organized, to a point where I organize other professionals (my team). I approach risk by creating systems for it. Systems count on a variety of outcomes and provide answers to deviations. Doing business is an example that’s both specific and rich, because doing business comes with fluctuations in income. The system for it will consist of measures such as creating a financial buffer ahead of time, paying the team partially based on project revenue so that we automatically spend less when money becomes short, creating streams of demand for our work via quality marketing and structured sales, diversifying sources of income, having low personal costs of living, building a large network of professionals who get us work. Or becoming known as the person who’s always helped, so that when I ask for help myself, it’s provided to me with joy.
You can see that everything on the list is energizing and rewarding to do. You’ll also see that a sustainable approach to risk is highly calculated. I like using backcountry snowboarding as a good example. When we go out, we evaluate the terrain and snow in educated and thorough ways. We think ahead, consider contingencies, pack extra everything. The backcountry activity remains risky, but it’s also one of the most calculated things I ever do. Relationships would be another relatable example. Brene Brown has good content about that. She talks a lot about vulnerability, which I see as the risk of experiencing emotional hurt. Embracing the risk — being vulnerable — is shown to lead to the most desirable relationship dynamics.
What should our readers know about your business?
We run a marketing operation where we turn websites into business machines. The recipe we use consists of SEO, content, analytics, web design & dev, and a whole lot of TLC. We’re proud of results such as helping a website of a 10-person clinic outrank WebMD and Healthline, helping a marketing agency outrank big established software tools, helping a construction company get booked out months ahead of time, helping a fintech startup figure out what they should be building, or having our own blog articles tweeted by Google Analytics often, or helping an ecommerce site that sells brain supplements outrank Amazon and Walmart for sales terms.
We focus on businesses with positive social impact who operate in data-driven industries — primarily health, finance, tech, and marketing. Other companies are great clients for us too if they appreciate data when making decisions, have a positive impact on the world whatever their industry is and who already have a way to make money that’ll pay for the bigger investment in their website structure and content. Our current clients are across the US. The team is joyfully global. There’s about 10 of us, working out of the US, Canada, Nicaragua, UK, Slovakia, and the Philippines. Everybody lives where they want to live, which means we can fit into an existing lifestyle of choice, that everyone is self-motivated and organized, that we enable the team to do their favorite expert work, and that we can source a global pool of talent when we hire.
The business has been about client services, and in 2021, we’re also building out a new revenue stream. It’ll be about monetizing marketing best practice resources. You can see that we’re finally giving the shoemaker’s son some nice shoes and building for our own brand what we’ve built for our clients over the years. The platform will grow on chosendata.com.
The work isn’t easy today and it never has been. Not even close. I started it when I got fired from a sloppy marketing agency and my main client wanted to keep working with me. Then another client as well. So I started freelancing, but I had no cash buffer. I had spent my savings on paying for the US visa and moving across the pond. This made it so that I needed to accept all work for too long, instead of specializing deeper. Finally, I learned enough about personal finance as well as service pricing, and got some grant money too.
My advice for the ones who want to start their own thing is this. Before you make the leap, put yourself in a position where you have enough saved up to not need to make money for 6 months. Then, start doing work that makes you money right away, even if it’s not enough to support you yet. By month 3, make enough to support you each month, even if you could continue without it. Build positive cashflow right away. Whatsapp is a great example of a company that funded the build with their own money for a long time. I find this to be super important for two reasons. One, a common cause for businesses with existing customer bases to fail is running out of cash. Two, having a backup will enable you to make those long term decisions that’ll make you a lot more money soon enough.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Hosting people in Mammoth is super fun. You play things by ear and accommodate to both the weather and the time of the year, so it’d be hard to make a representative itinerary. I’ll list out some of my favorite gems instead. Mountain bikes to wake up, terrain park laps the same day. Hot springs for sunrise. Scoring a backcountry line for sunrise, then getting to work by 9 or 10am. Floating on one of the rivers in the summer. Paddle boarding on the lakes. Diving off the cliffs by the lakes. Eating dank Hawaiian food in June Lake. Distance swim in a wetsuit in a high-altitude lake. 3 day backcountry mission for May or June snowboarding oh lala. Spending a week working out of the co-working space, provided it happens to not be the pandemic. Mammoth Lakes Film Festival late May. Paddling out to the columns on Crowley Lake. Trick progression lesson on a foam snowboard at Mammoth Trampoline Park in Snowcreek. Watching the stars from a hot spring or campsite, and really taking the time to look in until you see the difference in how some of the stars are farther than others.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Definitely absolutely my parents. They taught me the importance and gave me years of examples of the most important things I know: – Think your own way, design your own life – Take pride in the things you do and do them well – Help nourish and shape the people you’re surrounded by and the place you live – Make party. Whether it’s a dance party, a community event, a seminar, or an exciting income source, magic happens when you bring people together to celebrate.
My team. The joy I get every day from seeing smart people doing good work that then benefits my own name is beyond words. I take an active role in contributing to the quality of life for each team member, but I don’t think I could ever show gratitude enough.
Mammoth Lakes, CA. The mountain as well as the remote work environment of my beloved town has been super conducive to the lifestyle, friendships, and overall health that enable me to live well.
My higher education at the Norwegian School of Economics and Grenoble Ecole de Management. They gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to focus on, and the opportunity to go deep without worrying about income at the time.
The universe and all the trippy events it’s brought my way. I’ve had many times when I came up with a plan that I thought was great, then life changed it drastically and the result was far better than what I was able to think of myself.