The Beal Deal Interview Channel

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The Beal Deal with Michael Streko (@streko)

Is it finally feeling like Spring where you live? I sure hope so, otherwise you may wish to consider moving!

Michael StrekoIf you were to move to New Jersey, you may find a new best friend in Michael Streko, co-founder of KnowEm and one of the easiest guys to get along with that you’ll meet. I managed to take away his focus from growing KnowEm for just enough time to answer six questions.

I think you’ll enjoy his answers!

Q1. OK, let’s clear this up. Streko, Michael, Mike, “Mikey Mike & the Jersey Shore Bunch?” What’s your preference?

Haha! Honestly, as long as I can remember I have always been called “Streko”. There are just too many Michael/Mike’s out there. I will always introduce myself as Michael, but at the end of the day everyone ends up calling me “Streko”, so I have given up and just go with the fact that in life I feel like I am constantly on a football team.

Q2. KnowEm has become the go to site for securing social media profiles, what’s next?

We have a lot of stuff in the works.

The second big product that we are very excited about is our Publish Platform.

The two largest projects that Barry Wise (My partner on the site and co-founder of KnowEm) has been working on is our streamlined white label Enterprise Solution.  Besides offering all our comprehensive services it also offers a mobile-optimized platform. This provides any agency or organization the ability to white label all of KnowEm’s product offerings (Including Trademark Registrations) to look like their own brand with a client login, admin panel, and a bunch of awesome features with an easily skinned look and feel. **Shameless Plug** If anyone is interested in seeing a demo, feel free to contact me here http://enterprise.knowem.com.

The second big product that we are very excited about is our Publish Platform. It’s the natural evolution for our business model.  We constantly get, “Now that I have all these profiles, how will I update them?” So we decided to start working on a solution for this problem. We are not going the typical route of other social media broadcasting platforms, where they accept retail clients. We are looking to build the best solution for an agency or business that either has clients or brands they would like to keep active in social media. Our system easily lets you switch between profiles, schedule updates and has some more bells and whistles that we don’t want to let out of the bag just yet.  We are still in testing phases of the platform and want to be sure the product is perfect before we launch or take on more testers. But initial feedback is very positive.

Q3. As a small business owner, which Fortune 500 company do you admire the most and why?

I read the book “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh and it really inspired me.

This is kinda a hard question. Since the launch of KnowEm I have worked with many different Fortune 500 companies, learned their policies, their politics and became friends with some of the staff. At the end of the day I would have to say I am most impressed with, Amazon or to be more specific one of Amazon’s acquisitions – Zappos. I read the book “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh and it really inspired me. His views on business and customer service were very eye opening and I learned a lot from it. I noticed a lot of the values that myself and Barry have with how we run KnowEm reflected in his book. It’s not an uncommon thing to send an email to our support team at 11:30 on a Saturday night and get a response back from one of us within the hour. This is why I feel that we have been able to keep growing KnowEm all of these years.  I am actually happy to say that we celebrated our 4th year in business on April 20th. It’s been a long strange trip with a lot of learning, mistakes and some kick ass moves. Both Barry and I would agree that when we first launched the site, we never thought it would become what it has.  We are both very proud of it and look forward to continuing to do some kick ass innovative stuff.

We have a quality standard and ethics that our company sticks to and we’re proud of it.

I feel the root of it all has always been our focus on customer service.  We had a case where a client had given us the wrong image for their brand, and we went back and forth with them to fix this issue and make sure that the client was satisfied with the outcome of the order.  Because we do not outsource ANY of the profile creations we have a lot more control then the “clone” sites which have popped up in the last few years, and of course we are also proud of the relationships that we have built with the social media sites for which we provide registrations. At times I joke with the staff that we should join the affiliate programs of the clone sites and send them the orders that we reject.  We have a very strict “NO SPAM” policy, where we refuse to register names or accounts that either contain a trademarked term or are just plain spammy.  As an example “CheapNJPlumber” is something we wouldn’t do.  The only time we would even consider such a generic and spammy sounding term is if the company actually owns the domain and trademark and is actually trying to brand the term. I wish I could give you a list of some of the names we have had people attempt to sign up.  Some are comical and some are just outright infringements. We have a quality standard and ethics that our company sticks to and we’re proud of it.

Q4. You’ve pulled some crazy stunts for publicity (pretending to drink Windex), what’s the one you’ve enjoyed the most?

The Windex was fun, I have to admit after I drank it I realized that I had forgotten to clean the straw out completely and ended up getting a bit queasy for a while.

My other favorite was the KnowEm badge stickers at Pubcon. We printed out these stickers that looked like the classic “Hello my name is” stickers that gave people the ability to write their various social media profiles on their badge. They were a hit and we had almost everyone at Pubcon rocking them.  I still have some more tricks up my sleeve, and I’m sure the next time you see me listed as a speaker I will pull a shocker out.

Q5. You went to the “School of Hard Knocks,” how has that made you a better business owner?

I am actually classed as a full disabled veteran, but I have never gone for any disability pay.  There are a lot of our troops that need that money worse than I do.

After High School I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  I was sure that I had no desire to go back to school, so I took the summer off and then I was working as a waiter at a restaurant when a Navy recruiting officer came in. I figured, why not. So I joined the service. I loved the Navy, one of the best experiences of my life. To this day I still get upset when I think back of how it was cut short due to an injury.  I am actually classed as a full disabled veteran, but I have never gone for any disability pay.  There are a lot of our troops that need that money worse than I do, so I couldn’t see myself taking money every month when I know that there are people that suffered a lot worse than I did.

The cliff notes version of my Navy injury is simple, it was 4 am and I had just finished my watch as an Operations Specialist. I was smoking a cig before I was going to sleep until my next watch shift. Navy ships are all air tight, so you have to open a door, close it behind you and then open another door to enter the ship.  The person who is coming in always has the right of way. The person who was coming out wasn’t paying attention and didn’t look through the porthole; the outside door was still open. Which caused the vacuum to basically make the door slam shut on my wrist, this caused a compound fracture. It wasn’t pretty. I basically left the Navy at that point after having served two and half years.

As for the School of Hard Knocks, I apply it to business daily. I believe there are a few different types of “Smarts” a person can have.  Book Smarts, Street Smarts or paid Smarts…

Book Smarts – You went to school, have a degree etc etc.

Street Smarts – You rely more on common sense and your gut to know what you should do in any given situation, which is where I think I’m strongest.

Paid Smarts – You own a company and basically have employees that work for you and you take the credit for it. There is a lot of this going around now-a-days. You can pick people like this out easily because if you ask them a question, they will usually ask you a question back that is basically your question.

Q6. You have a hidden artistic talent, can tell us about that?

In my late teens and early twenties I was very into “Street Art” aka graffiti.

Ohh Jeez, yes this came up recently at my house with my 6 year old son. We were moving some stuff around in our basement and he found a collection of markers and spray paint tips.

In my late teens and early twenties I was very into “Street Art” aka graffiti and he wanted me to do a picture of his name. So I did it on paper, using crayons and pencil. I posted the picture on Facebook and had a few people ask if I could do their name. One in particular (Mr. Chris Hooley) said that I could do whatever I wanted and he would make it his cover picture. So I came up with a very very very vulgar character picture saying “Hooley”, he kept it up for a whopping 3 days because he said it would offend his mother.  I since then received a lot of requests for names and company names. So currently I am working on creating 3 alphabet sheets of different styles I am comfortable with and working on securing a few model train subway cars or cargo train cars. Once these are in I intend on doing an Ebay charity auction for any name, slogan or company name (as long as it’s not crazy long) on the cars in paint marker – 100% of the money collected will go to the Alzheimer’s Association in respect for a family member that has this horrible disease.

I look at it as the best way I can use my artistic talent for good. So if anyone or company is interested please be on the lookout for when I start tweeting and blogging about the auction.

That was fun Mr Beal! Thank you for having me and I look forward to seeing you soon! Also anyone that reads this, feel free to say hello next time I am at a conference and you see me. I’ll be more than happy to have you buy me drinks! (I kid I kid… not really)

Thanks Streko. Good luck with the future stunts and the growth of KnowEm!