Among the millions of voices on LinkedIn, some resonate with extraordinary authenticity and depth. Feyzi Fatehi is one of those significant voices. With 20K followers and a 2019 SIIA CODiE Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in education technology, he’s a tech industry powerhouse. He also speaks often and serves on several boards.
Yet, it was his book, “Democratizing SaaS,” that truly captured my attention. And there was another intriguing detail ― our shared network of a remarkable 917 mutual connections on LinkedIn. When Feyzi agreed to be interviewed, I jumped at the chance to connect with someone who has such an impressive presence. I wanted to discover how he thinks about LinkedIn, and why he invests his time in the platform when he has so many other commitments.
In the interview, Feyzi offers practical tips for CEOs looking to step up their LinkedIn game. From adopting the right mindset to specific engagement tactics, he provides actionable advice based on decades of experience. While LinkedIn may feel unfamiliar to some leaders, Feyzi makes a compelling case for fully embracing the platform.
Q: How did you first get started on LinkedIn? You’re very active!
Feyzi: Several years ago, I was congratulated by LinkedIn for being one of their first 1,000 members. [Note: Being in the first 1,000 members means Feyzi has been on board since the very beginning. I was in the first 100K users, but he beat me by a lot!]
I see LinkedIn as a practical tool, a joyful tool, and a professional public square to interact with other likeminded people. And, I have concluded I cannot afford not to be a part of it.
Q: How much time do you spend on LinkedIn?
Feyzi: About a half hour a day, 5-7 days a week.
The way I see it, there are two categories of people: Those who are social in general, always out there looking for the next opportunity, who have being social in their DNA, and who enjoy being around others. There are also those who prefer to swim in their own lane, do their job, maintain a work-life balance, and don’t see the need to be social including being social online.
I’m in the first group. I enjoy connecting with people and to get to know them and build professional and social relationship with them. LinkedIn is an ideal place to do that.
LinkedIn is unique in that it’s the first time in human history that you can meet someone and instantly know who else they know professionally that you also know.
It’s like finding out what “clubs” someone is a member of ― my conversations frequently begin by asking how they know a connection we have in common. It’s a way to build instant rapport and trust. Once we get down to business, the conversation that follows is quite different ― because we know so many people in common, we start trusting each other, and the rest are details.
Q: What do you think about personal branding for CEOs?
Feyzi: That’s a tough question for most CEOs — for most people. Many people have no clue what their brand is. If you don’t know what it is, it’s hard to express it.
For the folks who are trying to figure out what their brand is, I suggest paying attention to what they enjoy and where their talents and interests lie. For me, I’m mindful about what energizes and uplifts me. I love building relationships, and I get personal joy from connecting with people. Perhaps that is my superpower.
Q: How would you describe your brand?
Feyzi: It’s the intersection of leadership and entrepreneurship. And of course “Democratizing SaaS!”
As for leadership, my early career happened to be in corporate business, sales, and people management. Then, “leadership” per se was a foreign concept. I realized that not everyone likes to lead or has a talent for leading. But I have sometimes felt that it’s your job, duty, and obligation to lead, to set the tone, the vision, acknowledge people, and to listen to people, especially the people who often don’t get acknowledged or listened to.
An entrepreneur is anyone who thinks outside the box and wants to take a risk. Given the right mindset, and for many entrepreneurs I know, it could become a spiritual path, to develop yourself following a vision, but often sacrifice is needed to overcome obstacles. As its said “you cannot scale your business any faster than you can scale yourself.” Entrepreneurs accept the challenge and are willing to persevere, hustle and struggle to make things happen.
I’m very intentional about my presence on LinkedIn because the posts I like or comment on matter — they become part of my brand. When I use words or emojis, it’s an intentional act of communicating, an act of inspiration ― and one that is broadcast on a public, social platform. It says, “I endorse this.” When someone goes through our likes and comments, they should get a sense of our brand.
Q: How often do you post?
Feyzi: I don’t do a lot of posting — maybe once a month. Overall, my activity on LinkedIn is probably 5% posting and 95% engagement.
When I do post, each post is an intentional act of communicating value. I try to highlight and share insights, accomplishments, entrepreneurship, and positivity.
Q: What does your engagement look like?
Feyzi: I don’t think about LinkedIn as if “I want to tell people I’m “cool” or important.” Instead, I always approach it with humility, respect, and kindness.
When someone comments on one of my posts, I like their comment in a timely fashion. That tells them I saw it. Then I will get back to them later and say that I appreciate them taking the time to like or comment. That alone is a powerful way to build the relationship with my network ― it shows that I understand how busy they are, and I value that they took the time to like or comment on my post. It only takes a few seconds, and the social / emotional ROI could be huge.
Q: Do you have advice for other CEOs, who maybe aren’t as comfortable on LinkedIn?
Feyzi: If a person doesn’t value being social in life, doesn’t value connection, it will be hard for them to be social online. If they pretend to be social, they are creating a false veneer.
But for those who genuinely want to be more social, one way to start is by posting things that have nothing to do with your business, but that help the people you care about, that do them a favor.
Q: Do you think about the ROI of being active on LinkedIn?
Feyzi: I use ecosystem thinking ― not everything has to have an ROI in an accounting sense. What’s the ROI of spending quality time with your children, your spouse or friends? How about a visit to Louvre to see the Mona Lisa? You spend time in a museum, or on the beach watching the sunset ― your life is enriched. There’s no ROI per se, and in my opinion not everything important in life should fit into a spreadsheet.
Nowadays, business happens with people you like, and a part of it happened on LinkedIn. This is the modern version of the old country club. You meet, you engage. Being mindfully present on LinkedIn is like creating your own country club. You engage in non-ROI matters, you get to know each other, you build trust, and naturally you end up doing business together.
Continuing the Conversation
Feyzi’s take on LinkedIn is a refreshing reminder that it’s the quality of connections that matters most, not just the quantity. Reflecting on his thoughtful insights, I’m curious to know about your journey on this platform. What drives your LinkedIn interactions? Are you in it for the numbers, or like Feyzi, do you value the depth of each connection? Or something totally different? Drop your thoughts and experiences below. Let’s continue the conversation.