Billy Gene Shares The Art of Turning Failure Into Success

Billy Gene Shaw is the founder and CEO of Billy Gene is Marketing. He was named by Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the world’s top online marketing influencers, educators and practitioners. The self-taught, college dropout turned multimillionaire now teaches business owners how to leverage social media to drive sales.

Throughout his journey, he has embraced the entrepreneurial art form called “failing forward.” Gene’s keen understanding of business came from his first venture where he hit rock bottom and nearly lost everything. Through this he realized that the most important vehicle for sales, social media, was not being taught proficiently in the marketplace. In his next venture, after much trial and error, he saw an untapped market for sales through Facebook Advertising and a demand for this insight. 

Gene embodies the true essence of an entrepreneur; his all-or-nothing mentality coupled with a penchant for taking bold risks is unparalleled. He persevered despite dealing with self-doubt, depression and friends and family questioning his rationale in entrepreneurship. 

He has an unabashed confidence that is admired by his loyal followers. Yet, he understands that he must stay on top of the rapidly changing social media landscape or to avoid losing relevance. According to Gene, his School of GENEIUS “allows students to perfect their marketing game.” He states, “The mistake many entrepreneurs make is falling in love with the idea … there is no such thing as a million dollar idea, just a million dollar execution.” 

Tricia Love Vargas: What are thoughts on failure and why is it important?

Billy Gene: It is hard because it sucks, right? I think the biggest hardship is feeling alone when you don’t do well on something. Your imagination goes wild with what everybody is saying about you. Your family wonders what happened to you and if you’re going down the right road. Your friends are questioning why you didn’t get a job in finance, sales, accounting or something safe and conservative––so you doubt yourself. 

The benefit of failure is the callus that you build up and the strength you find. When you have nothing to lose, at some point, you don’t care anymore. That truly is freedom, to put other’s opinions away and just do you. The freedom to fail means you’re all in.

Tricia Love Vargas: You had an online business that didn’t work out, correct? 

Billy Gene: Back in 2009, I didn’t graduate from the University of San Diego because I didn’t go to my last classes. I got a job at 24 Hour Fitness and started a mobile oil change company that failed. Then I got a job at a call center at Ashford University. As much as I hated it, I learned a ton. 

Then, I had a friend whose dad had an online program to help people quit smoking. He allowed me to license his program, and we started a company called Rethink and Relive. We lost money right away. I had to borrow money from friends because I didn’t make a single dollar. The program was great and people were getting results. We just didn’t know how to sell it.

I think the mistake many entrepreneurs make is falling in love with the idea. You watch an episode of “Shark Tank,” and you think it’s about what your million dollar idea is. There is no such thing as a million dollar idea, just a million dollar execution. 

I didn’t know how to get customers for our company. In trying to figure out how to sell the program is how I stumbled across Facebook ads. When I found it, nothing was the same anymore. 

Tricia Love Vargas: How did you handle your ego in failing? 

Billy Gene: Horribly. I was arrogant because I thought I knew so much. I knew I had potential. But you are not your potential. You are what you’ve done––not even what you say. I did nothing successfully, and it was difficult.

Tricia: Did you experience any fear of putting yourself out there as a “Billy Gene Is Marketing”?

Billy Gene: No, but I didn’t lean into it until I got good at what I did. I still have so much to learn. I don’t feel like I’m that great at my craft relative to where I know I can and will be. I embrace it because it makes me stay on the top of my game. The last thing I’d ever want to be is a hypocrite, so it makes me study more. It makes me keep reading; it makes me still go to webinars; it makes me still listen; it makes me still pay for coaching. I want to be the guy that people view me as. I want to be that, and then some––to consistently over-deliver.

Interview By Tricia Love Vargas
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