Groupon CEO is a weird guy with good advice

Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason is proof that we can all accomplish great things by ignoring the naysayers and forging ahead … just like little Frodo on Mount Doom.

Deal-of-the-day web site Groupon.com vaulted from obscurity to multi-billion dollar company in two years. Indeed, it’s predicted to “make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever,” according to Forbes. Now, we’ve gotten a peek behind the curtain with the so-called “Frodo Memo” that ended up in the hands of the Wall Street Journal.

The memo, which was sent late last month, shows just how unusual Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason is. In it, the CEO holds back little of his enthusiasm, pride and ambition, and he offers a few nuggets of wisdom that entrepreneurs everywhere should heed:

1) You’re your own worst enemy. Mason argues sites like MySpace, Friendster, AOL and Yahoo! didn’t lose to competitors, but rather lost the battle on their own. “MySpace essentially handed Facebook the keys to the castle by devolving into a service that wasn’t delighting its customers,” he writes. How did they do that? By digging a rut and being unable or unwilling to innovate.

2) Enjoy the ride you’re on. When you’re overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations of your business or job, you can lose sight of what you’ve accomplished so far. It’s OK to revel in your success. Use it to feed your desire to make your business even better. “The earth is super old – thousands of years, some say – and no one has ever done anything like this,” Mason writes. “You should all exude a borderline-annoying sense of pride in what you’ve achieved. You should be wearing a big, toothy grin – the kind that makes people want to punch you in the face.” If you take pride in your business, you’ll make the decisions that will lead your customers back to your trough.

3) Give your customers a reason to pick you. Mason’s well aware that just about every programmer and multi-national tech company in the world is working on a way to poach clients from Groupon. “They are coming HARD,” he writes. “If you feel a little like Frodo climbing Mount Doom, you can’t be blamed.” But Mason argues that Groupon can stay ahead of its competitors by surprising the company’s clients. “Life is too short to be part of another cookie cutter company,” he writes. “Surprise reminds people that they are alive, that they haven’t seen it all.”

Take heed. Mason graduated from Northwestern University in 2003 with a degree in music. That makes him, what, 31? A thirty-something with a music degree has built a rapidly-growing Internet marketing juggernaut the likes of which the world has never seen. He’s proof that we can all accomplish great things by ignoring the naysayers and forging ahead … just like little Frodo on Mount Doom.

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