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Meet The Man Behind The Cover Of The October 2020 Issue Of Global Millionaire: Michael Smith

A veteran entrepreneur, Michael Smith is the Toronto-based founder and Chief Executive Officer of MDS Media Inc., a disruptive integrated marketing firm. He has built a career solidifying his status as a Market Leader in Integrated Marketing – helping companies execute industry-leading content marketing strategies and achieve profitability at scale for more than two decades. He’s a savvy visionary who does so much more than lead a business – “he elevates the entire digital conversation”.

Throughout his career, Michael has earned many of the media industry’s top honours. In 2019, he received the GlobalTrend Video Awards’ Ascent Award as well as three Triumph Awards; W3 Awards for his work in Branded Entertainment, Health & Wellness, and Not-For-Profit Videos; a Davey Award for Best Social Campaign and two Summit Creative Awards. Michael recently received the highest honours at AMCP’s 2020 AVA Digital Awards in the Corporate Image and Social Campaign categories. Michael’s branding work is recognized alongside the work of globally renowned brands like Apple, Netflix, Disney, Google, and Pepsi. In 2020, Michael was recognized by MADCon as a Top 100 Global Leader in Marketing and Advertising, for setting standards for industry impact, innovation, and future-readiness.

Additionally, Michael is a frequently published Forbes contributor and Forbes Agency Council Member, where he leverages his experience and subject matter expertise to lead a global discussion about branding trends and best practices. He appears on several expert panels each year to share his insights on disruptive strategy, marketing, media, and agency-specific concerns.

Global Millionaire recently caught up with Michael to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

Business is about conversations – with your network, with your staff, with your audience, with the people you want to help. Growth will always be about maintaining and nurturing those conversations. So, when I think about maintaining and growing my business, it’s all about connection.

On one hand, it’s about the value I can provide to all of these people. At MDS Media, we are constantly innovating our marketing models as a way of communicating and providing value to our audience and internal networks. But on the other, it’s about staying visible, letting people know that you’re available to help when they need you, and finding ways to communicate that aren’t necessarily grounded in business. These are uncertain times, and whether it’s a piece of content, an email, or a video chat, I make it a point to check in and acknowledge what’s going on.

There’s tremendous value in cultivating relationships, as you never know what those relationships will blossom into at a later date.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

MDS Media primarily operates in the B2B space, and we have found LinkedIn and Twitter to be the most relevant platforms for what we want to achieve. Our clients spend the bulk of their time on these platforms, and if we want to be an active part of trending discussions, we have to be there. Additionally, both LinkedIn and Twitter are really tailored to thought leadership. There are several passionate, niche communities on both platforms, and making meaningful contributions to them pays dividends, not just in actual business revenue, but in brand awareness, authority within our industry, and the expansion of our network.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

Paid Media and PPC campaigns work brilliantly if done the right way. I think where a lot of professionals run into trouble is expecting magic by simply running a campaign. A lot of the tools that are available now present themselves as turnkey easy, and it is quite simple to set basic parameters and get an ad going. But just like traditional ads, there needs to be a game plan, clear KPIs, and a goal. There are certain strategies and best practices that deliver results, and if you don’t invest the time in researching them, you can end up wasting a lot of money. So, for those business owners who feel like PPC and sponsored content campaigns are ineffective – this isn’t true. However, they do require expertise.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

My strength has always been in content. Everyone who knows any of my brands is well aware that we go the extra mile with content to be seen as an authority in the space. The entire Neon Cake aesthetic and value proposition is what drove an audience to a sold-out launch. We pride ourselves on content that separates us from the rest.

We take the time to understand our audience and the greater content landscape. Then we craft messages that not only stand out in every newsfeed but also stand out to the right people. My team and I really understand the power that great content wields, and we know that publishing a few random blog posts isn’t enough to garner attention. We build out comprehensive strategies, we run tests, we dive into analytics, and, ultimately, we take it seriously.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

We have our own system we have developed over the years – it is a hybrid of content marketing combined with PR. Throughout our time as marketers, we found that agency and PR models were flawed. The way audiences discover content has changed considerably in recent years and continues to evolve at a rapid clip. The traditional models just couldn’t keep up with the speed of change, and that led us to create our own system. We have tested it with MDS Media, Neon Cake, and a number of Technology Experts, and the results have been incredible. We have had a wild amount of success with it.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

In the last few months, I’ve had to let go of things that don’t serve me. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted, especially when it comes to the business climate. Time is limited, circumstances change, and it just isn’t useful to waste energy and resources on relationships or initiatives that drain me or my business. That realization was tough because I’ve had to let go of some projects that I was excited about. But I had to be realistic and cut my losses. I know that down the line this kind of decision-making will only make me, and my business, stronger.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

If I could offer any advice, it’s to take your time and enjoy the process of building your business. A lot of entrepreneurs, especially new ones, are eager for growth. I think this leads them to spend too much money in general or waste it on things that they don’t need – to really focus on honing your product or service first, and once you have money coming in, be purposeful about where you spend it. Do you need a 20-person team, or can you go leaner? Does it make sense to expand into 5 new product categories, or can you refine your flagship product? Don’t rush toward success because it can lead you to make a lot of money mistakes that take years to recover from.

What new business would you love to start?

I would love to start an educational platform for entrepreneurs. I know that there are already nano degree programs and lots of individual classes hosted by successful businesspeople. But I’d love to create something comprehensive, that covers all the topics that entrepreneurs will encounter in their businesses and that’s presented from the point of view of someone who’s been there.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I think this aligns with my answer about money mistakes. I’d really take my time, appreciate the journey, and pursue growth more naturally. I’d scrutinize every cost and expenditure, and I’d find comfort in the slow, steady race instead of focusing on the sprint.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I’ve received was to pursue a purpose other than money. Sure, there are positive things that come from making a significant amount of money – you can buy nice things, and you’re recognized in your industry as a success. But if that success isn’t connected to something more meaningful, it gets tough to stay committed to your business when the times get tough.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Learn how to position yourself – the importance of positioning yourself to your market is the single most important thing in getting started. It needs to be crystal clear not just to you but also to the customer why you’re different. You need to understand your value, your differentiators, and the best way to communicate those aspects of your business to your target audience.

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Meet The Man Behind The Cover Of The September 2020 Issue Of Global Millionaire: The Amazing Rafah Hanna

A veteran entrepreneur, Rafah Hanna specializes in financial technology, property, and security. He has built a career creating locally and globally diverse group of businesses that creates solutions focusing on three core values: sustainability, quality, and innovation. Having built, run, and managed financial technology and information businesses with the likes of the London Stock Exchange Group, the New York Stock Exchange, Euronext, and Deloitte, Hanna has built a strong reputation for delivery, execution, and market knowledge, creating an extensive network of contacts across various financial and data industries. He also owns a highly respected property investment company called NED Capital as well as a security company called Abchurch Group – a company that provides a global response to local and international clients’ needs in the fields of security, risk assessment, special equipment procurement, and specialist training.

Born in Iraq to a Catholic family with Chaldean roots that speaks Aramaic (the language of Jesus Christ), he views his parents as visionaries. After his parents saw the tide changing in the Middle East, they decided to come to London in the 70s to invest, contribute to the community, and build a powerful legacy. He was educated in Switzerland and the UK which gave him the skills and knowledge that enabled him to kickstart all of his businesses.

Fast forward to today and Rafah is now a successful entrepreneur with several businesses under his belt. Hanna has founded companies such as NED Capital and the Abchurch Group and his data consulting arm now serves a global client base as it continues to grow exponentially. Their clients include banks, brokers, regulators, stock exchanges, and the biggest financial website in the world.

His property investment company, NED Capital, is a unique, non-leveraged property investment company based in London that is entirely self-funded. It’s currently building a grade-one portfolio of exclusive residential and commercial assets in the UK. The goal of this company is to continue to grow their grade-one portfolio of investments via their intricate knowledge of the UK property market and unique sales approach, utilizing their fully staffed in-house team of skilled contractors, leading to becoming a publicly quoted company. His security company Abchurch Group, on the other hand, has helped to significantly reduce maritime piracy in the past four years using their specialist maritime protection team and sought after proprietary patented technology.

Incidentally, Hanna’s wife, Dr. Mahtab Hanna, is a successful entrepreneur herself hence the reason why Rafah and his wife are so compatible together. She has built, run, and managed her jewellery business for over 10 years. Her creations have appeared in numerous films and worn by various celebrities and even royalty. With her extensive qualifications (an MA from the Royal College of Art and a Ph.D. from Central Saint Martins) and a unique design approach, she has built a worldwide reputation as a jeweller of conscience.

The Global Millionaire magazine recently caught up with Rafah to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

The business world is not run on “basics” anymore. It is all about innovation, evolution, and revolution.

I am spending time, effort, and money on highly specific marketing campaigns to engage prospects with the message that our trustworthy brands continue to lead their respective markets. We maintain our relevance and criticality in decision-making options and ensure that our quality shines through, not only in delivery, but in every email, video conference, and follow-up.

We have also taken a unique approach to delivery by slashing project times, as we look to act ever more in the best interests of clients. The faster we can deliver without losing any of our guaranteed quality, the sooner our clients realise the benefits of our services.

Two other practices remain vital: one, only hiring the best of the best, and two, even though the businesses are market leaders, acting like a hungry, prudent, and wise start-up.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Each business is unique and therefore needs thorough research and a detailed plan of action. I always correspond the marketing plans to a cycle of client behaviour, the cyclical nature of each business, discrete events, and budgetary matters.

The nature of my businesses does not depend on or utilise the power of social media. My focus has always been on growing businesses rather than engaging in social media.

Today, social media is an important and ever-growing tool in my companies’ brand awareness strategies.

For example, Instagram is driven by stunning visualisations and presentation and is, therefore, most suitable for businesses such as @mahtabhanna jewellery designs and collections.

LinkedIn serves to inform, educate, and engage, but it requires a more medium-term strategy rather than a short-term one.

YouTube is the perfect platform to provide a more in-depth story about a concept or business.

It is important for readers to understand that all these avenues need careful planning. Have a clear objective in mind and allow room for fine-tuning. Do not rush in and make the fatal mistake so many have made; namely, thinking that simply being “on” a platform guarantees success—the opposite is true.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

Paid advertising is growing and will only continue to do so.

I passionately believe that one of the best ways to create a market and opportunity is to educate, inform, and offer products and services that would not otherwise be marketed in a traditional way.

Sponsored marketing works! The evidence on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn all support this assertion. These companies have grown to be some of the largest on the planet, and their revenues testify to it.

But we need to remember that their revenues are only part of the story. Paid advertising drives whole industries, fosters innovation, creates a better deal for consumers, provides massive tax income, and generates enormous employment opportunities.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

The core tactic is to NEVER lead clients but to always be on their shoulders, taking the same journey, developing what they need in real-time, fine-tuning, and evolving.

Another primary tactic is always to deliver quality. Delivering anything less is an offense to the client, to you, your brand, your name, and those that work with and for you.

Brand awareness has changed; we use a myriad of tactics to stand out:

• Be first to deliver and announce innovation; remain relevant and borderless.
• Invert traditional marketing strategy by ensuring that every briefing contains in-depth details regarding competitor offerings – market intelligence is the antithesis of marketing.
• Utilise current affairs to progress the story.
• Utilise known figures in the industry to win, gain credibility with, and retain clients by association.
• Inform clients of changes that benefit them and illustrate the differences between the previous and the new.
• Maintain the very highest levels of investment in staff quality and ongoing training.
• Make staff the cornerstone of innovation – offer incentives to develop new products, processes, and services and reward them for trying, even if it fails.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

There is no “best;” it is all about context and effectiveness. Throughout history, the most effective marketing tools have always contained three distinct elements:

1.Timing
2. Word-of-mouth
3. Recommendations

Our various businesses have what I call different routes to marketing. There is no silver bullet, but we think long and hard about spend cycles and regional and cultural differences. The biggest change has been the precision of strategic versus tactical online marketing.

For example, we ask ourselves whether we actually need to “sell” to the client directly, or if it would perhaps be better to act as their advisors. Create the conversation you want the market to have.

We no longer need to spend large amounts on general marketing; we can now target and pinpoint the exact right client or prospect base to inform and have the privilege to serve. Marketing is also not about an online presence. It might surprise people to know that one of my businesses does not even have a website yet is the absolute leader in its field.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

We have had the distinct privilege of not having to furlough a single member of staff or put stringent work practices in place. Instead, we have fostered a feeling and community of trust. I entrust the leaders of my businesses to be servants. They are the decision-makers, but they are also (and I never let them forget this) there to serve. To serve means to accept responsibility for outcomes, and therefore the risks and dependencies of those outcomes.

The toughest decision has been a family one; business is never what affects me most. As I read to my children at night, I always remember that their future is dependent on my decisions, not mine. You cannot go wrong doing the right thing the right way.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Mistakes are more important, in my view than success. You learn instantly from mistakes, whereas success leaves a memory you hold onto as you try to retain the emotional attachment of misplaced hope.

Mistakes provide you with an experience, whereas success over-feeds the ego in the short-term.

Thankfully, I had two of the world’s greatest advisors who have taken my raw thinking and morphed it into phenomenally successful global businesses and ever-evolving vision: my amazing wife, Mahtab, and my late father. Their honesty and clarity blew holes in those thick brick walls in the shape of a heart!

My answers should not surprise anyone. Many years ago my greatest mistake was arrogance: I knew better than anyone; no one knew better than me.

That attitude, until I recognised and tore it from my psyche, cost me financially and resulted in lost opportunities.

Another mistake I made was to invest a little in long-term things that won’t change instead of investing more in the short-term things that will change.

However bright your name shines in lights; you must always remember that lightbulbs have a lifespan!

What new business would you love to start?

My passion lies in creating opportunities that were not there, to begin with. The next opportunity that would pique my business interest would be creating a tradable index and fund to benchmark countries, sectors, segments, industries, and governments’ use of plastics.

This venture would deliver an inverted investment opportunity whereby humanity itself is both the investor and the investment.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

This is a good question because we never remember the acts of kindness that got us here, but we remember the opportunities that got away!

I don’t have many regrets; every small and major decision I’ve made has spurred my personal and professional growth. I have been humbled by the blessings of life.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Do not dislike that which may be good for you, and do not like that which may be bad for you. This quote, for me, encompasses the essence of learning.

Fear and growth cannot exist in the same space. One has to leave in order for the other to flourish.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

To a large extent, your mental habits will determine your success.

Build deep relationships with people who have accomplished the goals you want to accomplish. Protect your idea from the very start. Think about what could go wrong and how you will deal with it; plan for failure by not resorting to laziness, self-pity, or any of the mental defeatist tools that we all carry.

If you are selling innovation, be the first to market and create your own destiny. Learn from other fields and bring those insights into your own. Always be thinking about quality: implement it; deliver it. Once you reach that state of mind, you will never allow yourself to deviate from it.

One of the proudest moments of my career was when, sitting on a flight, I overheard two people mention one of my companies and described the service they received as “truly world-class.”

Research and know your market or segment as if your children’s lives depended on it. Make sure you recruit the absolute best candidates you can at every level, be it a janitor, a developer, a salesperson, or even a business partner—they will represent you in good times, and they will fight hard for you during the bad times.

Be proud of your mistakes. If we all said “no” to evolving, we would still be living in caves!

Finally, the greatest advice I can offer when it comes to business is this: it is impossible to imagine a business leader not looking after their health and families and still being successful. Your mind is where it starts; your body powers where it ends.

Part revolution, part evolution.

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Meet The Man Behind The Cover Of The August 2020 Issue Of Global Millionaire Magazine: The Inspirational Chris Graffagnino

Imagine if you had a crystal ball that enables you to see into your future – wouldn’t you use this crystal ball to avoid making any mistakes and use every possible opportunity to achieve success? Well, guess what? There is such a thing as a real-life crystal ball – and it comes in the form of a person you can turn to for solid advice about your business… that person is usually referred to as a “mentor.” Having a mentor is a must for any budding entrepreneur because they’re a valuable resource who have already experienced most of the challenges that you’re still currently going through. So in effect, they actually have a solution to those challenges.

Chris Graffagnino is one such mentor. Chris is a well known New York-born entrepreneur, business influencer, innovator, and avid traveler who is widely recognized as one of the most influential mentors in the world. A former law enforcement officer and combat veteran, he has used his experience in the security and risk mitigation industry and he has applied it to the business sector. With his unique skill set, Chris was able to develop a niche market in crisis management.

Chris was recently named as one of the ‘Top 10 Most Influential People in 2020’ by Yahoo Finance alongside big names such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Lisa A. Romano and for good reason. He has several accolades under his belt; besides being named as one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in 2020, he was also included in Yahoo Finance’s elusive “Top 10 Mentors to Follow in 2020” list. He has effectively developed several global businesses on and off Wall Street and he has several successful entrepreneurial ventures under his belt including a successful global risk solutions company. Chris actually specialises in business development and his passion is to help monetize a budding entrepreneurs’ ideas through his very own non-profit mentorship program “Settle4Success.” Through this detailed program, he’s helping emerging entrepreneurs develop their own businesses. He is helping them monetize and learn the ins and outs of the industry when it comes to business development and risk mitigation.

The Global Millionaire Magazine recently caught up with Chris to discuss his recent success, and find out how he is planning to continue to inspire everyone who wants to lead their business towards success and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I am from Staten Island, New York and I guess you can say I am an entrepreneur (laughs). By experience, I’m a traveler and business developer. More importantly, I am a father to my two wonderful kids – Christopher and Chloe and husband to my amazing wife – Danielle. I started my career in law enforcement and took that same service with me to Afghanistan as an infantryman in the US Army. I have culminated all of that experience in security and risk management to the private sector where I’ve helped develop niche market areas in crisis management such as security evacuation and repatriation services. In 2016, I took my own risk (no pun intended) and co-founded a global risk management firm that provides cutting edge global security and logistics products and services. Most recently, I founded Settle4Success to provide mentorship to budding entrepreneurs.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I think my journey started when I was a teenager and my brother Michael and I started a landscaping company with our dad. I was 13 at the time and my dad was my mentor. He taught me about the importance of hard work and never quitting without me even realizing it. At the time, work seemed like a chore but I had no idea the impact starting my own business at that age would have on the rest of my life, even if it did take me a while to realize it. I believe everyone has success within them. It wasn’t until I was hurt in Afghanistan at 26 years old did I start wanting more out of myself. Furthermore, it wasn’t until I was 32 years old when I started connecting all the dots from different years of my life to finally realize what I was meant to do. This was the year I left working for someone else behind and promised to never be a part of the 9-5 grind ever again.

What are you currently doing to grow your business?

Social engineering is a critical aspect of business development. I take pride in developing my network and building relationships with my clients around the world. Settle4Success is my newest venture to help enlighten those struggling with finding success. I aim to mentor as many entrepreneurial minds as I can by sharing my experiences and knowledge in the hope that I can educate and motivate people into a successful business outcome.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Currently, my largest presence is on Instagram (@iamchrisgraff, @settle4success). I also utilize Facebook and Twitter as well.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

I am very aware of paid advertising; however, I still believe in old-school social engineering, more specifically, targeting industry hashtags and accounts and engaging in direct conversation to introduce yourself and connect through similar interests. This helps build stronger, longer-lasting relationships and can ultimately provide better business exchanges. I do not sell any products or services via the internet; however, I directly engage in conversation with hundreds of social media accounts daily to continue to drive brand awareness for my mentorship platform.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers?

Settle4Success is new in the sense of it providing a free platform for entrepreneurs to connect, download educational material, and network with other likeminded individuals. It is a chance to be motivated and inspired to monetize one’s ideas and dreams. The uniqueness about it is that it’s free. I always say follow your passion, not money. If you follow your passion the money will come. My passion is to help others. In the case of Settle4Success, helping others achieve their version of success through business development is my goal.

What new business would you love to start?

I think starting Settle4Success allows me to see into many new business opportunities. Who knows, I may invest or become partners with ones that catch my attention!

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to hold on to the days of having nothing to lose a little longer. When you first start you take big risks, you have nothing to lose and stress is minimal. When you start experiencing success, you can lose everything. That fear of going back to nothing causes hesitation. You’re not willing to take on such risks anymore because you have something to lose. Although I am by no means anywhere near my finish line, I do miss the beginning phases. Enjoy those moments because that is where history is made.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend?

I don’t want to sound bias, but I have a book coming out end of this year – Settle For Success. I think many people will enjoy it. As far as authors go, I like Jocko Willink and Gary Vaynerchuk. They both have several inspiring books published and I have bookmarked pages that I constantly turn back to for reference.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Entrepreneurship is a risky business. Working in Corporate America and on Wall Street, I’ve seen major companies lose millions of dollars. Fortunately, I was able to utilize my time on Wall Street to avoid many of those mistakes. To succeed on your own, you have to undoubtedly take risks, but those risks can and should be calculated. Start small and scale as you have some experience with success. This will keep your business and any losses manageable.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

Being wealthy was never my goal. Like I said, pursuing my passion was and still is. I always wanted to provide for my family. The financial status sort of came once the market started positively accepting my work. That is a great feeling. But being wealthy is organic. It’s open-ended and you have to struggle with the reality that not everyone will like you. My advice to others is to stay humble and realize there’s always something to learn, regardless of the origin nor how big you get.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

My background lies within the expertise in security and risk management. In this space, relationship building is the best marketing solution. It takes a lot of sweat equity to develop and foster relationships between individuals. However, those relationships will last a long time. In business, I don’t look for ‘one and done’ clients. Developing a trustworthy relationship ensues years of collaboration.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

Right now, Settle4Success is free and it offers opportunities to connect directly with myself and other business collaborators for one on one advice and mentorship.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The global COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone and I think many people had to make hard decisions. For me, the hardest decision was to double down on my Settle4Success mentorship and launch throughout this period of uncertainty. S4S requires time and financial resources to launch. I decided to continue moving forward and speed up the launch date because I know there are so many people out there contemplating their careers during COVID and need to consume my information to help them make the changes necessary to succeed.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I was given was to always try. Win or lose, you will never have any regrets for trying.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

When you die, there are two numbers on your tombstone. The year you were born – the year you died. Pace yourself! It is a long, stressful, rewarding road. Enjoy the dash!