Neil Sweeney is the CEO and Founder of Freckle and Killi. Neil Sweeney is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Neil provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Freckle and Killi. Neil Sweeney joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has recently awarded Freckle and Killi our Impact Company of 2019 award, and we are delighted to have Neil join us for our Leader Round Table Interview.
The Freckle and Killi story is very interesting, and we are very excited to not only interview Neil about his very successful business and entrepreneurial spirit, but also put Neil through our popular speed round as well. Neil, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview, and answering some questions about leadership, your vision, and your passion.
1. What is the “elevator pitch” for Freckle and Killi?
Freckle delivers privacy-compliant data and independent media measurement for brands and platforms to better understand the impact that their media has on driving a consumer into a location.
Killi is a consumer facing application on iOS and Android that allows consumers to download, opt-in and take control of their data from companies that are currently using it and monetizing it. Killi allows consumers to sell their data (passively or via surveys) and receive cash payments.
2. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give CEO’s just starting out regarding keeping a company moving forward, and please tell us the key to your company’s success?
Be prepared to sacrifice a lot in order to be successful. Startups are not about bean bag chairs, foosball tables or free food. They are incredibly hard and will challenge every piece of you mentally and emotionally. Every decision you need to make is one that nobody else wants to make – most are hard and unpopular. Make them quickly and move on to the next. Also – stop asking people for advice – it's your business, so get resourceful and figure it out. Advice and criticism usually come from the same place – those outside of the arena. Lastly – are you willing to outwork everyone else in your field? Are you willing to do this for many years with no break? The answer has to be an absolute yes if you want to stand a chance at actually making it.
3. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
True growth only comes after you’ve been knocked down. It's a right of passage to separate the strong and resilient from the rest. There is no such thing as a startup void of challenge. Use the difficult times for self reflection with your team and your business. This is a mindset. Most will wallow in it – the best use it as an opportunity to reevaluate. Take a deep breath, unplug for a set time, recalibrate and get back in there!
4. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at Freckle and Killi, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
If you do not have a laser-focus on the client then you shouldn’t even think about starting a new business.
5. What is the one thing Freckle | Killi does to have great communication with their customers?
The secret lies with our sales team. We have a group of sellers that are hyper-focused on their customers. They have built truly personal relationships with all of our clients in a way that creates trust and open lines of communication to better understand their goals and needs. We enhance these relationships with a constant flow of news and content that is curated and delivered via our marketing team.
6. In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
I study. Everyday. I study ALL business and not just our industry. I come from a family of voracious readers and the most successful people in the world study more than others. Its vital to study all business as you can get group-think by sitting in your own industry. There are brilliant people and companies doing things in manufacturing, food services, technology etc – learn from all of them.
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead Freckle | Killi?
I am a very curious person and likely addicted to a few things that help me get excited for each new day. 1) Having an idea generated in your mind and then watching it come to life through the business cycle is very hard to replicate–and intoxicating. 4 years ago I had an idea about Freckle and now we operate in multiple countries servicing global brands with recognition of our hard work by trades such as this. 2) I am addicted to doubt. It's fuel for me. ‘They ‘can’t do it’ or ‘that won’t work’ are the quickest ways to get me moving.
At my core: How can I make the idea real while proving the world wrong at the same time?
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
There are 3.
1. The Innovator's Dilemma – Why big companies aren’t your competition (hint: too slow)
2. Blue Ocean Strategy – innovate where others aren’t.
3. Old Man & The Sea. Fish where others don’t dare.
Each quarter, I ask my team to read a book that I think will help their professional growth. This quarter, we’re reading When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. In short, the way you organize your time to optimize when you are in 'peak' mode vs not can make a massive difference in productivity. Some of it is obvious but most of us are not doing it. When you are considering how to best allocate capital of time and money, there are some fantastic techniques in this book that seem small but can have a big impact.
9. When communicating with your staff, can you tell us the most important thing you do so that they are able to carry out the objectives that you set forth at Freckle and Killi?
The culture here at Freckle and Killi is that 1+1 equals three. We have collaborative discussions where diverse perspectives are part of any strategic conversation. This allows us to poke holes in our initial strategies and not only develop stronger products but also create buy-in and ownership across the organization.
10. In one sentence, can you give some advice to fellow entrepreneurs wishing to build a company as exciting as Freckle and Killi?
Everyone who has never done it will give you advice on how to do it. Trust you – it’s what makes you unique and it’s your legitimate competitive advantage.
We would like to have some fun and do a “Speed Round” with you! We will ask you ten more questions that we want you to answer in just one to three words only.
Here you go!
1. In three words or less, What makes a successful CEO?
Guts, flexibility, fortitude
2. Describe your business in one word?
3. Describe your customers in one word?
4. What one attribute do you look for when hiring an employee?
5. What is the one word you want your customers to say about your company?
6. In three words or less, describe your passion?
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Discipline, guts, adaptability
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at Freckle | Killi?
Painful, educational, exciting
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English Language?
Can’t (this word kills everything that comes after it)
Neil Sweeney, Thank you so much for sitting down with us at our DotCom Magazine Leader Round Table. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping others learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We hope your interview helps our readers, and we wish you, your family, and of course Freckle and Killi, nothing but the best.