An Interview With CEO Ken Dunn (Part One)


Ken Dunn is an entrepreneur. Before starting Next Century Publishing, he made millions of dollars through his entrepreneurial efforts. He started Next Century to help authors avoid bad publishing experiences. In this interview, you'll get a glimpse into the life of a busy CEO, and what it takes to achieve success.

1. You're the CEO of a midsize company. What does a "typical" day
look like for you?

I have learned many lessons from my mentors over the past 20 years. Some of these people are the CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 companies. I work every day based on what I learned.

I get out of bed every morning at 5:30 a.m. It does not matter how late I go to bed. I take the first 30 minutes and read a couple pages of the Bible and my current book. Then at 6 a.m. I hit the road and run at least three miles.

I am always the first person to the office every day. I get into work 45 minutes before the earliest employee. I take the private time to plan out my day and update my agenda. What appointments are scheduled? Who do I want to reach out to? Even though I am the CEO, I still prospect people every day. I always will. It's in my blood. So I plan out who are the two prospects that I want to reach out to today.

Then around 8:30 a.m. every morning, I do an update with our controllers in Las Vegas and Toronto. One of my mentors taught me that I need to know the details all the time. I read the P&Ls every day and know exactly how much cash is on hand, accounts payable and receivable. I get those details every morning. Then, I talk to my business partner and president of the company, Rod Larrivee, who works out of our Panama City, Panama office. We trust each other completely and make all decisions together. All of this happens, typically before 9 a.m.

Then the day starts. I follow my calendar every day.

I also make sure that every single day, I take the time to connect personally with two of the employees. I may just stop and chat, share a laugh, but I have to ask them questions about their life, family, fun, etc. I need to know about my partners and staff. I love them.

I drink a protein shake at lunch time every day and work through lunch.

Around 4 p.m., I usually end up in a game of competitive ping pong. We have a staff ping pong league, and the table is in the board room (don't tell anyone, LOL).

I try to be home for when my kids get home from school and hang out with them for a bit. When I'm working at home in Toronto, I'm at the dinner table and then off to an evening meeting or back into the books, paperwork or contracts or catching up to emails in the evening.

2. How do you stay focused, and how do you determine where you should spend your time?

My secret to staying focus is simple and two-pronged:

  • I have my friends money in my company. I invited my friends to invest in the company when we started, and I know that they took their hard earned retirement dollars and invested them. I want to bless their lives in a big way. I need to stay 1,000 percent focussed to get them a real ROI. I also have gained the trust of hundreds of authors who are crucially important to me. I cannot let them down! I have to stay focused to continue to deliver on the promise I made to each of them. Some authors get frustrated by a growing company. We have made some mistakes in our early days, but we have always tried our best, and we need to stay focused.
  • At the very beginning of the company, I wrote a business plan and made some goals for our company. My goal was to affect the publishing industry dramatically. I decided that I was going to build an online community that would provide a higher level of PR and support to authors then any website on the internet ( launching on June 5th). Once I finalized my plans, I started telling everyone I knew about them. I even appeared on radio and TV about the goals and the website. I told people the intimate details including how big the website would be, how many people would be using it, how many books we would sell, how many authors we would help. I have told thousands of people this stuff. I did it intentionally to keep myself focused. You see: many people heard my vision and said I was crazy. I have no choice but to stay focused and make my goals a reality. If I do not, then I will be seen as a lunatic for making such audacious statements.
  • I spoke for a major mortgage company in Canada a few years ago about creating success. The talk was called Speak Your Dreams. In the talked, I explained that if you create a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), and then you speak about it, tell everyone you know. Then, you will have to focus and fight until it becomes real, or else you will be nothing more than a lunatic.

    I will not be a lunatic.

    3. What led you to start Next Century Publishing?

    In 2008, I published my first book. I spent two years working on it. A friend did most of the writing. I was so proud of it. One of my dear friends, an international best selling author with Workman Books, Nicholas Boothman, even helped me with the title. I went to the internet and found a publisher who promised me the book would be perfect and be successful. Then I found a self-proclaimed book launch expert. He told me that he could build a website, and record an audio interview about my book. He would then direct 1,000,000 people on his email list to the site, and they would buy thousands of books.

    I bought into both the publisher and the marketer. Well, $80,000 later, the book was published with over 200 grammar errors in it and that book launch expert only sold four copies. It was a complete disaster. I then hired a few good people, studied the publishing industry for 18 months and relaunched the book completely redesigned with a new title and ISBN. Today, that book has sold over 100,000 copies. I have gone on to write three more books with total sales of over 250,000 copies. I am releasing my fifth book now, The Greatest Prospector In The World.

    As I started to have success with my books, my friends started to ask me for help. We started publishing their books, we built a website and got more leads. I had the idea for and our business has exploded.

    This is the end of part one. In part two, Ken gives you specific advice on starting and growing a business.