Of all the recent posts I have done – I am frankly not sure where to start with this one 🙂 . From his nipple turning antics to constantly picking on his employees or eating more and working less at his office. I am honestly not sure how they get anything done business-wise with all this but he seems to be doing something right. In a recent trip to Seattle, Sam was gracious enough to pick up myself, my wife and my brother to show us his office and introduce us to his team and show us the inner workings of the aquarium aka offices of Guppy Media.

Sam was born and raised in Honolulu and LA and resides in Seattle, WA.  Currently marred to Christine, has a daughter Jessica and son Justin.  On his spare time, he plays on a club soccer team, practice kendo, plays guitar, Xbox live (at night) and heavily involved a volunteer board member at my church.  Also, active with volunteering for world missions at his local church and of course spending time with family.  His favorite sports teams include UW Huskies, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Seahawks, LA Dodgers, Boston and Vancouver Canucks.   Graduated from University of Washington in 1995.  Favorite foods are:  Pho, Bibimbap, Sushi and Red Mango and Bubble Tea.

Sam, tell us briefly about yourself and how you got started in this industry.
My career in affiliate marketing got started when I changed my career as a stockbroker for Smith Barney and started business development with Zango / 180Solutions (current day Pinball Network).  I knew I wanted to be on more on the ‘tech” side of the industry, as I saw that many of my clients were making much more money than I was J And particularly in the late early 2000’s with the initial dot com bust, it was a perfect transition for me, with no prior experience in tech, to start in a biz dev role at Zango, driving installs and distribution.  I had always been a top performer and receiving sales and production awards as a stockbroker and fortunately, this naturally carried me over to the interactive ad world.  My spheres of influence, contacts and relationships started in the interactive advertising and affiliate marketing world from here on out.  I owe Zango quite a bit in terms of my initial training and fundamental understandings of interactive media buying.

Do you think being an Asian in this industry has hindered or helped you achieve the level of success you currently have or anticipated?
Honestly, I feel that actually one of the positive characteristics of our industry is that is so diverse and progressive to begin with.  I believe that these two characteristics actually define our industry as a whole, as well as many other adjectives which come to mind such as “hip”, “glamorous”, “trendy”,”youthful”, “energetic”, etc.  I do feel that it is actually because of this culture of diversity, that I feel, personally, I was able to actually flourish more, in the sense of reaching my true potential from a career perspective.  So, to answer this question, I would have to say that given the environment and the surroundings which I live and breathe everyday within our industry, I would actually have to say the celebration of diversity has actually help to foster and proliferate my career.  This is actually one of the key traits about our industry (affiliate, performance marketing) which I actually admire most – cherish and encourage your diversities, uniqueness, and creativity.

What are the top 3 factors that you feel contribute to your success?
1. First and foremost is to always keep your “creativity” cap on.  In my honest opinion, creativity and novel and unique ways of marketing will allow our industry to thrive and flourish.   Innovation is the key to not only survival of a company but also ongoing success as well

2. We are in a service and relationship industry – we should never lose sight of this.  With our industry, being as competitive as it is, the only real way to stand apart from the crowd is to always place an emphasis on best possible client service, to the absolute best of your ability.  Much like the golden rule states, treat others as you would like to be treated.  This hold so true in our service and relationship oriented industry.

3. This is also somewhat related to point #1, but just like Jack in the Box say’s, we must think “outside the bun”.  Our industry, at times I believe, just tends to stick to standardized norms and processes at times and if everyone then begins to follow the same process, this could then lead to what I call “idea saturation”.  We must encourage ourselves to go against this grain and think of and develop new and innovative ways of conducting business, from an operational, marketing and relational perspective.

How important is it to you to communicate with your readers? Is there a particular message you are wanting to convey?
If there is one word of encouragement that I could communicate to my fellow peers and industry colleagues, can all be summed up in one word – “value”.  I encourage everyone, particularly as a daily reminder to myself, to always provide value in all that you do.  Value in the sense that we must give our clients a reason to work with us.

Talk to us specifically about your experience and frustrations in dealing with people in the industry.
It’s really a pet peeve when I go out of my way to do favors for fellow industry colleagues and I often stick my neck out on the line for them.  In many cases, they in turn do not return the favor; much less appreciate what I have done for them.   I do feel at times that albeit we are in an “online” world, we should always remind ourselves that we are all human beings ultimately behind the keyboard and we should all treat each other with mutual respect and courtesy, as is the natural laws of humankind and the universe.  I do believe that we shy away from the tendency to think that we are not email aliases and Skype ID’s behind our PC’s…and that if we were doing business face to face, would things be done differently?

You are well known in the industry, who has been your motivation or inspiration, in other words, who is your driving force?
First of all, I give all the credit and all blessings to God in Heaven.  Through Him all blessings flow.  Secondly, my family is my number one motivational force.  Finally, in terms of inspiration, I actually believe and admire myself.  It may sound pompous, but when I look back at my previous trials and failures and how I was able to maintain a positive attitude and continue to survive and succeed each time; it is a constant reminder and inspiration to me.

What do you think is the impact of the “new” media on today’s generation? Are they leveraging it effectively and more importantly – are they leveraging it for the betterment of our industry?
New media is the reason we are progressing as a society and is one of the few economic sectors still experiencing rapid growth and progress from the financials markets sense.   It is because of this innovation, that new jobs are created daily and I truly believe will continue to be the driving force behind the salvation and comeback of our current domestic economic situation.  Reciprocally, I would hope that with the onset and growth of “new media” that this does not preclude us from continuing to be in touch with our human side as well as the value of real interpersonal relationships and the human touch.
Being a minority myself, there are constant stereotypes that I have to overcome, have you ever experienced this?
Growing up in the south (brief time in elementary) I did experience this, but primarily living on the west coast for the good majority of my life, I have not really experienced it.

What are some effective tools and products that help you keep your life organized?
Google Docs is the only tool you need!!  I also highly recommend Basecamp for CRM as well Assembla for ticket and task management.

If you had a money tree in your back yard and could purchase anything for your business tomorrow, what would it be?
Definitely.  I always wanted to have my own 59’ lifesize “Gundam” robot – http://sneakermaniac.com/59-foot-tall-gundam-to-be-displayed-in-tokyo-park/

Any words of wisdom for my readers looking to get into this space?
Be real and genuine.  Remember you are dealing with humans and not AIM ID’s.  Always remember the golden rule and the basic laws of the Universe and you’ll be fine.  Lastly, always believe in your “inner superstar” – you just need to find the right outlet to release it and let it shine.

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Ricky Ahuja is the CEO of Affiliate Venture Group

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