Name: Mario Peshev
I'm a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and business advisor who launched his first website back in 1999 (for Pokémon!)
Having spent the majority of my life in the inner depths of digital growth, I've launched a number of ventures along the way, including a top 20 WordPress agency worldwide called DevriX.
As a passionate learnaholic, I enjoy diving into different business cases on a daily basis, applying our tried-and-tested business frameworks, and running data readouts across a multitude of partners we've been working with for years.
And as an introvert, I recharge during family nights watching Disney+ or board games at home, listening to podcasts, and submitting content for my Entrepreneur and Forbes columns.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Mario's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Perseverance is by far the hardest trait I had to master in my 15+ years as a founder (and before that, individual contributor).
The market dynamics have been shifting rapidly as time goes by. I still recall vividly the chaos during the Great Recession of 2007-2008, the following layoffs, and the downturn of entire industries.
This was followed by an economic boom with no statistical justification - overhiring, endless volumes of funding rounds (from ICOs through the rush of 2017-2021), a sudden life-threatening pandemic, the shift to remote work, the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and dozens of micro ruptures impacting the broader market landscape.
Staying true to your vision and grinding "no matter what" is a special type of focus and determination that borders with insanity. Everyone zooming in on a specific situation or conversation, losing a client or recruiting a new role, can judgementally negate a decision or fail to comprehend the bigger play.
But while studying history, most great entrepreneurs have made radical decisions that don't resonate with the status quo. This predictive analysis of the future is what sets apart these great leaders. And pushing through naysayers requires thick skin and an abnormal level of resilience.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
For starters, I don't refer to myself as a "leader" for two reasons. First, compared to world leaders or kings and khans who ruled entire continents, most of us entrepreneurs are merely drops in the sea. And second, a leader is the unifying force of a strong community looking into the same direction. Without that community (your team, clients, partners, followers, mentors, family), a leader of one is a dreamer at best.
To my current journey as a founder or entrepreneur, I've applied the level of consistency and hard work for a continued period until certain business paradigms just clicked.
My first website was built in 1999 but my first successful agency was launched a decade ago. I've started several startups but the one in 2002 finally crossed 7 figures several years in. We've pivoted with different services, value propositions, audiences, markets so many times - most don't reach product-market fit, but few do, and that's what we double down on.
I'm a firm believer of good karma and giving back - and I started my first blog in 2005 or 2006, leading to a serious of other journals, video channels, 200+ conference talks and hundreds of podcasts or webinars. Good karma goes a long way - and this is a key principle in moving forward with my advisory or investing initiatives over the past years (and my roadmap for next year).
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Definitely NOT fond of the "Wake up at 4" movement across the Instagram influencers 😄
I spent over a decade with 65-80 hour work weeks and I've been trying to gradually reduce the workload over the past couple of years. The pandemic helped alleviate some of the conference travel and flying abroad for events and client meetings - even at the cost of the Zoom fatigue.
As I have teams and clients all around the world - North America through Europe to Asia and Australia, it's a 20-hour workday at any point in time. My focus revolves around weekly sprints and scorecards, revenue dashboards, and a steady flow of lead campaigns running across multiple channels.
Operationally, the usual day starts around 9:30 with some deep work for a couple of hours, then on-site syncs and meetings, client and strategic calls, and some family time. Late in the evening, I catch up on email and unblock actions for the following day.
With family and kids, flexibility is definitely required: between school pick ups, extracurricular activities and classes, and other events in-between. That's why some evenings end up packed or mornings allow for an early coffee meeting or a workout.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
The browsing habits since the pandemic have shifted quite a lot - with businesses going under, people locked at homes, e-commerce growing through the roof. The inception of ChatGPT as a browsing channel and TikTok taking over search inquires for Gen Z. The "return to normal" took people outside for months at end, catching up on the past three years of postponed events or limited gatherings.
This rendered lots of successful practices obsolete. SEO nearly disappeared for the first 6 years of ChatGPT emerging. Digital traffic collapsed midst 2023 with people spending time away from screens.
Seasonality has been disrupted entirely. I follow the weekly trends in my own newsletters - with more work in the summer and a very strong August sales month (unusual in almost all segments), and a dry October that tanked so many expectations for Q4.
"Patience is a virtue" was the natural leadership lesson I keep being reminded of, so much more in today's day and age.
And the added twist are channels that sporadically work for a few months and disappear after. As social networks and organic platforms rapidly change their algorithms to catch up, some tend to work extremely well for a while, then fade away and let others pick up the load.
What we do as a rule of thumb is maintaining most digital channels at all time - which allows us to quickly scale ones that are working now and leverage the history of existing accounts. One day it's organic LinkedIn posts, or newsletters, or Twitter threads. Having old and reputable accounts working in the background for many years is the proof of another lesson of "overnight success takes 10 years to build."
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One key read I keep referring to is "Principles" by Ray Dalio.
An early advisory client of mine back in 2016 or 2017 once mentioned that my leadership style closely resembles Dalio's school of thought. I wasn't familiar with Principles then, and Marius (my peer) sent a copy my way to dive into.
Principles was far more sophisticated than my initial framework but incorporated integral paradigms like radical transparency and perceiving, diagnosing, and solving problems. It's still a recommended read of mine, along with his other book on macroeconomics called "Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order."
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Get involved with ventures you would still be proud of ten years later.
With the rise of short-term opportunities like ICOs and NFTs, affiliate and gambling networks, traffic arbitrage or hedging AI features, many young leaders try to ride the wave long enough and profit of quick hype waves.
These may backfire. Lots of questionable startups crash and burn quickly, with crypto exchanges ending up filing for bankruptcy and founders being sued after, tokens sold for hundreds of thousands rendered void after, or AI startups used for mass outreach spam cluttering emails.
Before investing your time and capital into a venture, make sure it aligns closely with your value map. There's plenty of fish in the sea and your brand in a decade from now will be shaped based on actions and lessons you've learned along the way.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
It's hard to pinpoint a specific story, but rather a sequence of events as a part of the journey.
Students and interns of mine have grown into R&D directors and VPs in multinational corporations, growing their own teams, following some of my lessons (or inviting me to train them.)
The local WordPress community grow over the past decade with hundreds of new community contributors, translators, theme and plugin developers - giving back to the world.
Clients we've backed up across my businesses maturing and scaling from SMBs to established organizations, employing noble cultural traits and giving the right examples to their peers and competitors.
I'm proud of my core teams working hard and helping make the world a better place - launching incredible products, supporting great businesses, picking up new skills, launching new service tiers, and allowing me the time and focus to share my own lessons to the public.
Some of my works are taught at dozens of universities and colleges worldwide - and I've taught classes in private academies and renowned institutions such as MIT. My lessons on asynchronous communication have been deployed in hundreds of small and mid-sized firms (that I know of) and dozens of agencies have extended gratitude when we coined the "WordPress retainer" business workflow and shared the practice freely across the broader community.
I'm always both humbled and thrilled when individuals progress both personally and professionally, businesses thrive under our guidance, executives step up through advisory, and students and solopreneurs are able to learn and experiment through our public resources that we've spent years and millions of dollars to create and refine.
This wouldn't have been possible without all of my teams' hard work, the trust of our clients and partners, and the genuine curiosity and proactiveness of my broader network of contacts and followers.