Ivan Doruda. VP of Sales at MGID – The best teacher is experience.

Effective management, self-discipline, supplements and the most overlooked verticals by affiliates.
Ivan Doruda VP of Sales at MGID affpeople interview

Ivan Doruda is VP of Sales at MGID and mainly responsible for global demand in more than 100 countries. He manages multiple regions and monitors closely global and local trends for those regions. He has been with MGID for 8 years and has worked in the industry for over 12 years. 

I first met Ivan during the Affiliate Virtual Summit I was co-organizing and hosting. From the first minutes of Ivan’s talk, I knew I wanted to do a proper interview with him. He struck me as a highly professional expert and I decided to reach out to him and learn something new regarding self-management and overall efficiency. As a result, we have here a very detailed interview that’s a MUST read for everyone who cares about personal and career development.

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Management and leadership

Ivan Doruda MGID Affpeople interview
Meet Ivan Doruda VP of Sales at MGID

Tell me what is your current focus as an executive?

Currently, all focus has been directed to COVID-19, which has had quite a substantial effect on the world, let alone companies. Nevertheless, besides overcoming the constant hurdles that came with the pandemic, we are still focused on the expansion of MGID. We have made strides across the world, such as: opening new offices in Latin America, launching several regional partnerships with exclusive resellers in Spain, MENA, etc. Of course, we are also focusing on increasing our footprint in the US, Asia, and Europe. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be honest of me to say that we have been flawless during this pandemic; We certainly have been experiencing pressure on all levels. A key thing to note however is that times like these come and go, and we will not let a crisis like this slow development and growth.

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How would you describe your style of management?

I personally believe it to be tough but fair. I am frank and strict with my team. I try to teach by example and show my members that what matters most is taking responsibility and working not for personal gain, but for the overall positive results. There’s no way you can hide a needle in a stack of needles, so it’s better to set the right expectations and mobilize everyone for a doing mode. Though I wish I had more hours in a day to work eye to eye with more of my teammates.

How do you know that you are right when making decisions? 

That’s a great question. I don’t know. No one knows! Look, we are all human, we all make mistakes. However, two things are important:

  1. learn from your mistakes and don’t make the same ones twice
  2. be ready to admit you are wrong. Even if you made the wrong decision – you can still fix it if you aren’t overzealous with your own pride. It’s better to fix something than be “always right” and fail your team and yourself at the end of the day.

My decisions may be emotional, but now that I know that – I can deal with it. I can take more time to decide, rather than make an instant reaction.

However, what determines the quality of a decision?

People (even not the smartest ones) who are capable of taking responsibilities are gonna achieve more than a random Einstein who sits flat on their ass and is afraid of taking a step.  Click To Tweet

If you don’t give time to process something, it’s gonna be the easiest decision ever. It may not be the best or the right one though. There’s plenty of neuropsychological research on that matter, I may advise some books to those who are interested, but in short – you don’t make decisions, your brain does. Let it do its job and for that – it needs some quiet time. 

I can go on, but I think you get the picture.

MGID agency meetup Native Ads 101 Ivan Doruda MGID Affpeople interview
MGID agency meetup Native Ads 101

What if your team disagrees? 

Well, then it’s your call, but be ready to take responsibility for that; don’t try to misplace blame on someone else if it doesn’t work. 

In this life the only thing you get credit for is responsibility. People (even not the smartest ones) who are capable of taking responsibilities are gonna achieve more than a random Einstein who sits flat on their ass and is afraid of taking a step. 

Thus, people need to have the right for a mistake. A well-calculated and expected mistake. Give tasks to team members, even if you assume that they can make a potential mistake. If you can’t accept a cost of the mistake – don’t give that task to this employee (again, only for the first time, no repeated mistakes under the same circumstances should be tolerated).

Fear paralyses initiative and ideas. Let them feel they can fail, but also learn. 

Are they going to feel like suggesting innovative but risky ideas if they know that when you listen to their idea and it fails – they are going to be ones to blame?

I don’t think so.

So either have a common agreement, or in case of disagreement – take responsibility and make a decision by choosing a side.

And last but not least, be consistent in your decisions. You may be wrong, but if the team knows your “logic”, they can adapt. This doesn’t mean to keep making stupid decisions. Accept that you’re wrong and from now on be consistent and explain why you made such a decision. They may disagree with you, but at least they know how you think and may either attempt to make you change your mind or know how to act next time.

What are the most important metrics you analize across MGID?

There’s a concept of vanilla metrics and pirate metrics. Vanila style is a “comfortable” metric that shows you how you’re currently doing.

On the contrary, the pirate approach analyses things on different levels from different angles to show you how things really are. However, pirate metrics are “ugly”.

So there’s no single metric. For each medium there’s a set of KPIs we monitor.

For clients – it’s a conversion rate, ROI, spend, we do cohort analysis on multiple occasions.

For pubs it’s their revenue, CPMs, quality scores.

For managers it’s generated revenue, conversion rate on each stage of a sales funnel, clients scale dynamics 

And there’s a bunch of KPIs, monthly and quarterly quotas, churn rates, win rates, retention.

It’s easy and hard at the same time. You can’t do all at once, but you can evolve over time. But don’t count on one single metric for everything.

Oh sorry, we have one. Being business-focused, we’re focused on revenue. But getting revenue is impossible without hundreds of metrics measured at the right time and in the right place. 

What makes good leadership?

Obviously, vision. Not the kind of vision about “changing the word”, but the vision on how to solve your client’s problem better than anyone else now or in the future. And therefore, vision on how to make your clients so happy to work with you, that they wouldn’t trade a partnership with you for anything. This in turn is going to drive revenue for your company, and a better life for all the 600+ families that rely on you by working in this company.

Don’t want to be narcissistic, but I’ve described the other “ingredients” above 🙂 

Concentrate on objectives, be a master of important over urgent, and be bold enough to take risks and bear responsibility for the risks that no one else in the organization can take.

How do you motivate people to deliver more?

Tough question, as I’m frankly not sure if I’m still doing enough of that even now. I don’t have problems with passionate speaking, but it’s not just about words. 

It’s about being there for your people when they need you. You need to both support them when they fail and congratulate them when they do a great job. 

Also, management is not when you scream at people when they do something wrong or didn’t do smth they had to do (yeah, I’m a loud guy so some may think that I’m screaming at people, the truth is I’m loud all the time).

Management is when you educate, mentor, guide people, give them clear objectives, all the tools they need, and proper feedback. If you do it right – they will succeed and it’s gonna be the best motivation.

Tasks without deadlines and responsibility are not tasks. Projects without detailed sub-tasks, careful planning, and retrospective on what worked are gonna fail both timeframe-wise and result-wise. Click To Tweet

I guess the most important things to understand are “compliance” and “dedication”. If you fail to explain why something is important – they’ll just do the necessary minimum. If they know why they do what they do, they know how to do it or how to come up with the idea to do it – they become dedicated and inspired and are going to do more than required.

It’s a never ending story and I will never be able to say I do enough to motivate people as it’s harder than just saying the right words.

What do you always check personally?

Whether all the processes and guidelines we’ve implemented for my department heads and team leaders actually help them achieve more. If something doesn’t help/work – it should be changed until you find the right approach. 

Productivity and time management

Ivan Daruda MGID Affpeople interview

How do you deal with your tasks?

I learned to deal with that the hard way. From complete chaos (I thought it was a well orchestrated chaos by that time) I evolved to understand that tasks without deadlines and responsibility are not tasks. Projects without detailed sub-tasks, careful planning, and retrospective on what worked are gonna fail both timeframe-wise and result-wise.

An imperfect solution today when it's needed is better than a perfect one when it's too late. Click To Tweet

So, unfortunately no new things or silver bullets here. It’s good old calendar planning, task trackers (we use different ones –  from Trello and YouTrack to, obviously advanced CRM) and well-structured communication in Slack.

And I do written notes. Yep, I have multiple notebooks and I note down all the important things on every discussion I have. I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to that.

What are your rules for an effective meeting?

Well, I’m still working on that, but generally, we have an agenda prior to a meeting, so everyone knows what we’ll be discussing. 

No “bullshit” policy, in a sense that we don’t try to pretty up the ugly truth (remember Pirate approach).

Also, the attitude that an imperfect solution today when it’s needed is better than a perfect one when it’s too late. We try to come up with solutions right then and there, or have a common plan for what to do. Remember that the worst enemy of a good plan is an excellent plan.

And obviously follow-ups (not just text, but Youtrack tickets, CRM tasks, deadlines, responsible, etc.).

What is your morning routine?

Routine constantly evolves, I experiment a lot. 

More or less my usual routine is the following: 

Morning starts in the evening. I try to carefully plan my sleep hygiene, thus using a sleeping mask, active noise cancelling ear plugs, some vitamins for my sleep and ideally a good book before going to bed, but having 9 offices across the world in multiple time zones may affect my “ideal evening”. Also, tracking your sleep is a good strategy to get data for energy management. There’s a great app for Apple Watch called AutoSleep; it shows you when you went to sleep, how long you slept and % of deep sleep. I would recommend playing around with that for those who are concerned about their sleep.

Brain function depends heavily on your metabolism, food, and stress management, so I try not to underestimate those factors. Click To Tweet

In the morning, I start with a glass of hot water, breathing exercises (my record is holding my breath for  5 minutes), then running or swimming (I wish I could say I do that everyday, but I try to do either at least 3 times a week). 

I then take a contrast shower for a few minutes.

Some very nutritious breakfast (about 50% of daily calories), this is super important. 

Brain function depends heavily on your metabolism, food, and stress management, so I try not to underestimate those factors.

Ivan Daruda MGID Affpeople interview

What do you do when you feel totally exhausted and unable to perform any task?

Everybody feels broken from time to time, that’s fine. A bad sign is if you feel like that all the time. It’s also fine to recharge your batteries from time to time and take some time off (a day), spending it with your family or for something unrelated to work, such as a hobby or a bike ride in a park/forest etc. 

What are your number 5 tools (app/soft) to Increase your productivity at work?

  • Spark for email management.
  • Slack for corporate communication and chat management.
  • Microsoft To Do (former Wunderlist) for quick task management.
  • Evernote for notes (try to force myself using it, for the most part it’s standard apple notes).
  • YouTrack and/or Trello for project management.
  • Hubspot CRM for sales management.
  • Google chrome bookmarks to keep important things in the web in some sort of order.
  • And YES, finally, nearly forgot, Pzizz – an audio app for me to focus. Allows you to have proper concentration sound to dive into the task and limit external noises.

Do you take any supplements or vitamins? 

Yep, a lot. But don’t get me wrong, that’s a doctor’s prescription. Won’t dive into details but it is a balanced supplements plan tailored to my body’s (genetics) needs.

And yes, it helps me a lot.

The only thing I can advise is Tryptophan for sleep. It is a natural amino acid that helps melatonin production. I had full testing in Advanced Sleep Research Institute in Berlin and a prof. prescribed to me that supplement, but he said it’s of good use for everyone and no side effects or addiction can be developed. So for a good sleep you can try to take those and see if it works for you.

Know yourself, trust your body, listen to its signals. Click To Tweet

And also take Vitamin D. All the people in Europe (except some Southern countries) have insufficient vitamin D due to the limited sun activity. So the World Health Organization suggests adults to have some dose (check the official website for a recommended dose for your region, or better consult your doctor) for life.

That’s what I can recommend and it won’t hurt anyone for sure.

For the rest of the things – please allow the professionals (doctors) to do their job and find the best solution for you personally (like we do it here at MGID).

Ivan Daruda MGID Affpeople interview

How do you keep the required level of energy?

I need to say it’s a very interesting interview. Honestly. No one has ever asked me those questions and I have a lot to say! No, frankly, I want to tell my story because it may help someone with a similar issue.

I had terrible energy problems. It may not look like that for those who surrounded me, but a sense of complete exhaustion was my companion for years and decades. No matter what I did, I had a sleep disorder and always woke up fatigued.

At that point in my life, I knew that if I wanted to start making progress with myself, I’d have to find a solution. That’s why I talked in great detail about my morning routine, productivity and vitamins.

I experimented a lot with supplements, food, sports, schedule etc. 

I tried to find a medical explanation for a very long time, doing endless tests. All those tests showed I’m nearly 100% healthy, yet I felt chronically tired. And I found out that I have a minor teeny-tiny genetic disorder. Nothing serious, but my body doesn’t transform some part of folic acid from inactive (you consume with food) into an active form that your body needs.

And it appears that one single compound affects your brain, your immune system, your metabolism. My body for years lacked a simple element to function at its best.

Now I take some pills (supplements) and it solves the issue.

Several years of research, endless tests, years when I felt literally miserable, and all was solved with just one pill… the red one, haha, kidding.

Know yourself, trust your body, listen to its signals.

Learning and education

Ivan Daruda MGID Affpeople interview
MGID agency meetup Native Ads 101

What business books would you recommend to just everyone?

I won’t be boring and repeat business best sellers like Thaleb’s “Black Swan” and “Antifragile”, or let’s say “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries or “Skunk Works” by Rich and Janos.

Instead, referring to what I said on the previous question and concept of “knowing yourself” I’d kick off the list with psycho-pop literature. 

3 books by prof. Andrey Kurpatov and his “The red pill’, “The palaces of the mind”, and the “Trinity”.

It explains why you think and act like you do, and what causes it. It helps you find your “kryptonite” and attempt to control it. Super cool and life changing books.

And then obviously history books, because you need experience to make the right decisions. 

All the decisions in the world were already made once, so why would you want to learn from your mistakes if you can learn from others’?

But obviously the best teacher is experience. You learn from your peers, you learn from your boss, you learn from your subordinates. You learn all the time, even if you don't realise it. Click To Tweet

Aside from that I recommend “Guns, Steel and Germs” by Jared Diamond (super thing to understand the concept of cause & effect and to get to the essence of things) and the more recent “Sapiens” by Harari.

What is your table book?

I’m a poor reader. Honestly I’ve  read very few books in my life and I wish I could read more often, so it’s gonna be a long shot. I try to read several books at once and it can take me months just to end one. But, I have a small pocket size book on winston churchill aphorisms. Just 4 or 5 famous quotes on one page. Sometimes I open a random page and read random quotes. That guy knew his way with words.

How do you educate yourself in general?

Online courses from time to time, not specifically related to my main scope of responsibilities. It can be things like economics, history or investment. You can often grab valuable insights from the outside and then implement them to your case.

But obviously the best teacher is experience. You learn from your peers, you learn from your boss, you learn from your subordinates. You learn all the time, even if you don’t realise it.

Affiliate Marketing

Ivan Daruda MGID Affpeople interview

If you had to run traffic as an affiliate where would you start?

Considering the fact that Facebook is tightening its regulations and the likelihood of an advertiser’s accounts being blocked for nearly no reason (my younger brother does dropshipping of certified products that are sold on Amazon, and was banned with no explanation) I’d say native is a good start. What else would I answer after being a part of native for 8 years, right?

Any of the platforms out there are fine, but depending on whether you’re just starting out or if you’re experienced, you may want to choose accordingly. 

If you’re experienced and have a decent budget – use them all and allocate the budget to whichever fits you the most and you like the most. 3 major platforms (soon to be two with the merge of some guys you probably know of) have unique pubs thus unique audiences. And by working with different suppliers you do not overlap but rather complement your media buying efforts. Moreover, once you hit really big volumes it starts to get more complicated to squeeze more from a single platform, so add more channels to scale.

There's a whole new world beyond Nutra, just sitting over the horizon waiting to be discovered. You just need to be bold enough to try something new and exciting. Click To Tweet

If you’re a “fresh off the boat” affiliate – start with a more open platform, one with a better support team that will give you valuable insights. It’s important to always talk to your personal manager. At MGID, every manager sees new clients as an opportunity for a strong partnership. We know that if you make money you’re gonna spend more with us, thus we do all we can to help you get the best out of the platform all the time.

What are the most overlooked verticals by affiliates in your opinion?

E-commerce. With the global pandemic and shift in global habits for purchasing and consuming of goods, e-commerce is the skyrocketing sector. 

Digital goods are also a must. E-learning is a huge niche. It’s a strong trend that only strengthened with the start of the pandemic. More and more people are going to learn everything online and even treat conventional schools and universities for online education

Financial offers is also a super strong niche. Things like loans, insurances, mortgages.

There’s a whole new world beyond Nutra, just sitting over the horizon waiting to be discovered. You just need to be bold enough to try something new and exciting.

It’s told that affiliate marketing is no longer for individuals – too hard, too expensive. Would you agree with this statement?

There’s definitely room for solo affiliates. But Adam Smith wrote his “The Wealth of Nations” in the 18th century and described basic principles of labor distribution when a group is able to be more efficient by making each group member specialize in what he’s best at.

I’ve been a “loner” for a long time, and now I understand what a poor team player I was years ago. I learned the hard way that united we stand, divided we fall.

If you don’t want a permanent team, try to ally with people you know on a temporary basis and see how it goes. Or at least outsource some technical and “boring” work and try to concentrate on what’s most important – ad creatives, funnels (ideas, not codding) and optimization (my managers at MGID can totally cover you on that last one).

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