Transcription / Summary
The first episode of my podcast is focused on my guest speaker and brother, Kevin Si. We have been working with each other for as long as SEO Hacker has been alive. Let’s get to know more about Kevin Si, as well as his role as the COO of SEO Hacker.
Kevin is the Chief Operating Officer of SEO Hacker. It is the first and only place where he has worked ever since he graduated from college. He used to be the website and development head. Nowadays, with all of his technical know-how, he is considered to be the technical expert of the company, while I oversee all of the marketing aspects.
One of the notable projects that Kevin is doing right now is that he is creating a company called Tomoe where he sells bead bracelets.
Now you might be wondering, what’s so special about these bead bracelets that Kevin decided to start a whole business selling them, when in fact, it’s something that is very accessible to everyone?
It can be found in a lot of malls, and markets, and even in small corner stores more commonly known in the Philippines as Tiangge.
Kevin explains his learnings from a seminar conducted by Leadership Stack, one of my recent startups, that any idea that is not physically present with you is nothing but an idea. It lingers—and oftentimes, it gets lost in translation. Kevin describes the bead bracelets he is selling as a means to symbolize these ideas. He wants to help people have the same mantra of materializing their ideas and goals.
He further explains that the bead bracelets are in no way an original idea. It’s easy to find the beads on the Internet. What sets Tomoe bracelets apart are the difference in combinations and the message behind them. Tomoe aims to cultivate and empower people who use these bracelets to make sure that they’re reminded of what they can become.
One of the few things Kevin wanted to highlight was that he and his company is looking to create a program where they ask their customers to commit to something, and they’ll be asking for regular updates from them.
In this age where social media has taken up a large chunk of our time, seeing influencers, and other people who flaunt their luxurious lifestyles so much can be depressing at times. A lot of people can feel helpless, but in reality, we are empowered to do so many things. Empowerment itself is an amazing concept, as long as it is done well.
Going back to Kevin’s position as the COO of a young tech company, he shares that his work is mainly about handling both operations and people.
Operations is easy. As long as there are clear rules and regulations on how things are supposed to be done. He also notes that there is a very defined standard separating good quality, excellent work, from the bad ones.
That being said, the hardest part of his job is defining which is good, and which is bad work, processes, and outputs (which is, as stated by Kevin, still fairly easy). It’s a matter of reaching quotas, while also exemplifying quality work.
Another point worthy of consideration is that it’s actually the people in operations that make things hard because you have to motivate and encourage them.
I personally make an effort to get to know them well enough to empower and encourage them.
SEO Hacker is a young tech company that has a relatively young workforce of approximately 40 individuals. Being the COO of such a company is quite a unique experience.
In Kevin’s case, he can pretty much sum it up to be a very fun experience. That is with the condition that you have the right people in your team.
People with the same vision, same character, same goal, and same mindset—they are the best that you can work with since it’ll be easy to be aligned with them.
That being said, you can’t just ignore the fact that there will be times when you hire people that think too highly of themselves when in reality, everyone else is doing far better than them. This is the one thing that Kevin dreads in his team.
Being the COO of this young company, if you just have the right perspective, culture, environment, and setup, it can be fun, not just for him, but for the whole team.
Of course, there will always be stressful times. One person managing 40 people isn’t necessarily fair in most cases, after all.
Now, it’s a different story when it comes to not having everything so right. Particularly handling people who are too self-serving that they’re hurting the company.
One of the most important learnings that Kevin shared is that you have to learn when to take emotions out of the equation. Yes, it’s the best way to motivate and challenge other people, but at times, it is eclipsed just by having a look at the numbers and data.
Another good point is to put the benefit of the company first at all times. In most cases, this would mean setting up very strict rules that often go against what most of your team wants.
But that’s okay.
One good example was when I chose to go with the usual 9 to 6 work hours instead of continuing with flexitime. I didn’t remove it for the sake of it. I wanted to make my team more disciplined. That way productivity improved a lot.
When it comes to making sure that you have the right people for your team, Kevin states that the simplest thing that you can do is to create filters. You can’t just give everything that your team members want.
Bear in mind that the standard for high-quality people is not all about what’s written in their resumes. In fact, some of the most excellent workers are also the ones that have bad characters and attitude.
These are some of the worst things you can keep in your company. What you do want to find in your team members is discipline.
This is why the interview process in SEO Hacker was changed to have 6 steps spread between a few days. We already have high standards as it is, but when we see applicants that really work for something that they want—that’s the quality we’re looking for.
As I’ve mentioned, Kevin is my younger brother, and he has, for all of his career, done nothing but work with me. Working with one’s family has its advantages and disadvantages, and Kevin shares just how complicatedly simple it can be.
He states that the most advantageous and disadvantageous part of working with your family is the blurred line between professional and personal lives.
If you’re not disciplined or mature enough, problems with the business might begin to spill into the family table during non-working hours. This is what Kevin felt as he often thought of how hard it was since I was his boss. There were times when he would think that he doesn’t want to talk to me, but he can’t really blurt all of it out and would much rather keep those emotions to himself.
On the other hand, being family also gives you a lot of leeways when it comes to bargaining for things since you’re more knowledgeable about what’s happening with one another. Your alignment and mindset are far better when compared with people that have different priorities. More importantly, it’s the unwavering trust and loyalty between the company and Kevin that is truly a benefit of the blurred line between his professional and personal life.
As an induvial, Kevin has always strived to grow more and more as time passed by. In reality, he was not one of those people who were passionate about SEO or digital marketing. This was an opportunity given to him by his brother and has since been the ship he’s been sailing even today.
The first thing that came to Kevin’s mind was how he first focused on setting his foundation. Learn what you have and be thankful for it. This is your starting point. Your ground zero. It’s the place where you’ll go back even if you lost and failed at some point.
When you are content, positivity abounds. And with that mindset, the possibilities open to you are endless.
Kevin is an audio learner. He prefers to learn new things through things such as audiobooks and podcasts. To him, books don’t give much gratification. He has a lot of downtimes, in particular, the times when he’s just driving to and from his home. That’s when he listens to audiobooks.
Aside from that, Kevin also genuinely believes in podcasts. There are many podcasts on Spotify that focus solely on growth, in particular, you can check out Dave Ramsey.
Podcasts feel more natural, while books are more scientific and legal. For Kevin, podcasts feel like you’re just listening to a bunch of friends discussing things naturally.
That being said, learning largely depends on the individual. Bear in mind that there are four main types of learners, visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetics—all of which find it easier to learn when the medium used is what they’re used to.
In my case, I learn mostly through reading—thus my love for books.
The final part of Kevin’s growth plan is to create a business. As mentioned above, Kevin is founding a business named Tomoe where he sells bead bracelets that are meant to empower people and to remind them that they can always do what they want in the long run.
To him, there’s a big difference between head knowledge and applied knowledge. Through his own venture, he wants to refresh his learnings and reacclimate with what he’s been doing—all as a person who spearheads a business of his own.
Kevin plans on retiring by the time he reaches his fifties. With the help of his knowledge about stocks and his expertise in both design and marketing, he wants to achieve financial freedom that will let him not worry too much about his future.
He also has dreams of becoming a professor in his alma mater, De La Salle—College of Saint Benilde.