Today, we have Lance Cummins, President of Nectafy.
Lance started Nectafy in 2012 and grew the company organically into a 10+ company with multiple customers across the globe. Lance is not a typical CEO that you come across very often. Below is our interview with him that we can assure will be thought-provoking and interesting.
Interviewer: Can you describe your company and your role briefly, please?
Lance Cummins: Sure. My company is Nectafy and we are a growth content company. We create content that’s designed to generate organic traffic and help that traffic convert into leads. So we serve B2B companies around the world. You’ve probably seen the stuff that we do as articles or blog posts or podcasts and that sort of thing around the internet. I started the company in January of 2011 and I’m the president. But my main job right now is I do sales and just try to keep everybody happy and loving work. So that’s my role.
Interviewer: So you even do podcasts?
Lance Cummins: Oh, we do. We do everything, like Ebooks, guides, etc.
Interviewer: What is the current problem that you’re trying to solve as the CEO of your company?
Lance Cummins: The Internet is full of people creating content, and a good chunk of those people trying to generate traffic are turning out sub-optimum content. So the problem we’re trying to solve is cutting through that clutter, and recognizing that we have to continue to differentiate ourselves as we move forward based on the quality of what we do and the results of what we do.
Interviewer: Perfect. So how is your daily routine like?
Lance Cummins: My daily routine has actually changed quite a bit in the last six months as we have hired a new team member. We call him the director of marketing, but really he’s more than that—he’s the one who runs Nectafy. So my day has gotten a little less hectic. A typical day for me is, I’m up at seven and I go on my walk. I have a walk around my neighborhood every morning for a couple of miles. Then I come back and make oatmeal for breakfast every day.
Interviewer: That’s good. It’s a good sign of productivity that you don’t change your schedule.
Lance Cummins: It’s interesting because I really do love change. But that part of my schedule has been pretty consistent for a long time. I think I’ve had oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Sometimes I do cereal if I’m traveling. So, after breakfast, I’m usually starting work by about 9 o’clock. I try to do something early in the day where I’m gathering my thoughts. So I have an Evernote document that I literally call “gathering my thoughts” because when I start the day, I just want to make sure I’m thinking about the right things. On my walk, I try to listen to an audiobook; I particularly like to read about U.S. presidents. I’m trying to read biographies of all the 41 presidents. What I love about studying presidential history is that they’re all just people with lots of faults and lots of issues. But also they tend to have one thing about their character that is what made them stand out. Probably my current favorite would be Ulysses S. Grant.
Interviewer: He was a general in the Civil War, right?
Lance Cummins: Yeah. The thing that I find fascinating about him is that his life was actually considered to be a failure until he was around 40— about my age. He literally was selling firewood on the corner, trying to keep his family fed. And that’s when the Civil War started. He got involved and went from nothing to leading the northern armies in six months.
Interviewer: Everything happened in six months. Interesting!
Lance Cummins: Yeah. That was cool. He was prepared for it because he was a military guy. It’s just that things hadn’t gone his way. And so I like the fact that, when he became president, he faced the situation; he did some things that were very, very difficult after the Civil War. He didn’t do a good job of understanding people, he made all kinds of terrible choices. But he had a conviction for the things that he thought were right and stood up for them— probably political suicide in a way—but I like the fact that his life turned around in the middle. It was pretty cool.
Interviewer: What is one thing that you think you got right at work that most people don’t? Like, you know so many people are making the same mistakes again and again, but what do you think of that, and how do you do it in the right way?
Lance Cummins: I’ve actually thought about this quite a bit. Our company is not very big, but we’re profitable, stable, and consistent, and I can provide the lifestyle that I want for me and my family. I started this back in 2011 when I had no money and didn’t know anybody. We had just moved to a new city. I had no income, but I committed that I wanted to limit my time working so I could focus on things that I felt were more important. I actually put bookends on work and said, work is not encroaching over this. And I made the decision that work will always be there. In other words, you’ve done enough work, you’ve put the effort in and you’ve got all these things pressing and then you think—I should just do one more thing. I should just spend one more hour and then I’m going to be good. But, the truth is that it’ll be there tomorrow. It was more important to be available to my family. I’ve had the company 10 years now with my kids. My kids are 18, 16, and 11. When I started, my youngest was two and I’ve been able to be integrally involved in their life this whole time. I have zero regrets about the amount of time I spend with my family.
Interviewer: To summarize, you can say that you have figured out how to balance work and life.
Lance Cummins: Yes!! We like to use the word align instead of balance because balancing indicates there are things that are opposing each other. This is one of the other things I would say that we got right. It was actually accidental. When I started the company, my intention was to build a normal kind of company. We even got an office space, and we were all meeting there. But then I accidentally started a remote company where all our team is remote. It’s been a total game-changer, and that’s perfect for work-life alignment. I can work, I can do things I need to do with my family, I travel. I work from the road and have weird hours, but I can work anytime that I need. All these things have come with remote work, but our whole company is that way. So we’ve actually been able to extend that to other people as well.
Interviewer: So are you currently working from home?
Lance Cummins: Yes.
Interviewer: Oh, okay. Nice. And so what is one productivity hack that you can tell us?
Lance Cummins: Okay. This is, really, really simple—using a scheduler to set up all meetings. Anytime somebody asks me, “Can we meet?” I never go look at my calendar and start scrolling through and emailing a bunch of options. I don’t spend time looking at these things. All I do is say, “Here’s my calendar. Choose a time.”
Interviewer: Perfect. What is one thing that you would like to improve in your daily routine?
Lance Cummins: I’m trying to currently build in reading time to my daily routine, in the evenings or mornings.
Interviewer: It’s funny, I was interviewing a couple of guys and the three most important things that they would want to include are exercising, reading, and spending time with family. Just these three things. No other stuff. How do you define progress and how do you measure your progress as an individual?
Lance Cummins: Whoa!! Ask me again. Because that sounds like a big question.
Interviewer: So how do you define progress?
Lance Cummins: Progress. Okay. So for me, progress is continuing to create something out of chaos. So in other words, when we write articles for a client, that article doesn’t exist at first—but it’s somehow wrapped up in the brains of several people at the company. It’s just disorganized. It’s not connected. And so that’s just a practical example. If we can do that, I think we’re making progress. I think in my personal life if I move into things that I’m not familiar with and I bring a sense of a new approach to what I’m doing, to me that’s progress. It’s basically just not constantly organizing but creating with the things that you encounter. So,I don’t think that progress is necessarily growing revenue. I don’t know if progress is necessarily getting more clients or even developing new technology—but it’s bringing value where you didn’t bring value before. That might be another way of saying it.
Interviewer: And, how do you measure your progress as an individual? How do you feel about that, like how do you measure it?
Lance Cummins: Yeah, it is a great question. It’s probably super subjective because of my personality. If I feel like I’m challenged or invigorated by the things that I’m facing and I’m healthy mentally and emotionally, then I’m making progress. When I feel like things are turning stressful or I’m becoming discouraged, or I have just general dissatisfaction with something, then it tells me something’s not right; I’m not actually making progress on the things that I want to make progress on.
Interviewer: Nice. So what’s the best advice you have ever received?
Lance Cummins: Hmm.., I don’t know if it was like a quote or anything. It is around the idea of “Make sure that the things you do and the things that you say are important, actually line up.”
Interviewer: Nice. And who do you look up to and why?
Lance Cummins: So there’s a lot of people that I look up to and usually for very specific reasons. I am not a fan of too many things or people and I’m not a celebrity-follower. I do like the New England Patriots, but I refuse to wear a Tom Brady jersey. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.
Interviewer: I lived in the U.S. for 8 years. I lived in Boston, Summerville.
Lance Cummins: Oh, well you know all about that then.
Lance Cummins: That’s where we work. Yeah. That’s where I started the company.
Interviewer: So, are you based out of Boston?
Interviewer: Okay. So where are you based, now?
Lance Cummins: I’m in South Carolina, Greenville.
Lance Cummins: We love it. We were in Charleston last week. So in terms of who I look up to, it’s tough for me to say that because I respect specific things about people. There’s one guy that I look up to a lot, and he’s also about my age. His name was Sunny Smith and he started a company about 20 years ago. He’s the first one that introduced me to the idea of, “When you have a company, if you’re willing to let go of control and let somebody else take charge, you actually have a lot of freedom to explore the things that really fire you up.” Even though you’ve got a business, you don’t have to be tied down by it. There’s another guy named Bob Arnold who’s in his mid-seventies.
Lance Cummins: What I like about this guy is that he’s in his mid-seventies, but his whole life he has been willing to keep his mind open to new ideas and sort of change some things. Most of us lock-in and we’re unwilling to change, and we just keep forcing ourselves down the same path. I look up to those two guys a lot.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time, Lance. We really appreciate your taking the time to do this.