In the debut episode of “Building Blocks,” Quad CMO Josh Golden engages in a fascinating discussion with Flowcode founder and CEO Tim Armstrong. Armstrong is the perfect guest to kick off this new video series, which features free-wheeling conversations with industry leaders about how they tackle the hardest marketing challenges — while also giving us an insider’s view of the building blocks they use to forge success.

A marketing-world legend and media/tech visionary, Armstrong first came to prominence at Google, where he was credited with helping the search giant build its advertising business into a multibillion-dollar juggernaut.

He went on to take various transformative leadership roles at other companies. These include serving as the co-founder of hyperlocal news platform Patch; taking the helm of AOL as CEO; and serving as chairman and CEO of the Verizon Media subsidiary Oath, following the telecom giant’s acquisition of AOL for $4.4 billion in 2015.

He launched Flowcode, his latest venture focused on leveraging an advanced QR code platform that connects the digital with the offline worlds, in late 2019. (Full disclosure: Quad was an early investor.)

His wide-ranging conversation with Golden touches on everything from Armstrong’s early morning routine to the most important piece of advice he would give to a young person starting out in the business world.

On setting goals

“Every year since the time I was 22 ’til now, every Thanksgiving Day weekend, I sit down and write my goals out for the next year… If you write your goals down, even if you don’t look at them, you’ll attain 80% of them every year.”

Armstrong says his No. 1 building block for success is setting goals. He not only does it annually, he does it daily — planning every day the night before, blocking out time for each thing he wants to accomplish.

On taking risks

“The lesson I learned early in my career is that risk-taking is like building a muscle, like going to the gym or learning a language.”

Armstrong says one of the most valuable skills he learned as a young entrepreneur was risk-taking. “Most people never say, ‘I did everything I wanted to, I took every risk I wanted to take.’ Most people say they have regrets,” he observes. “I have zero regrets.”

On his ‘average of five’ rule

“You’re an average of the five things that you ‘eat’ — the information you consume —and what you ‘greet’ — who you’re around. You become an average of those things. Most people don’t think that way and they end up in spots they don’t want to be. So, before you do anything, ask if it will raise the average of five or lower it.”

When people starting out in business ask Armstrong for advice, he emphasizes the importance of seeing themselves as part of a bigger puzzle. Each person is born with certain skills and aptitudes. They’re a piece of a puzzle and there are other people out there who are a perfect fit. “Young people are very competitive, but I say be in charge of the things you’re good at and hug the people who are in charge of the things you’re not.”

Part of that approach involves surrounding yourself with people and information that make you better — the average of five. “I learned that later in life. I wish someone had sat me down when I was 12 and told me,” Armstrong says.

On going deep

“I meditate first thing when I get up, and then after I meditate, I usually start [studying] subject matter. By the time I get to work, I’ve already been an hour-and-a-half on one subject. And I don’t just skim the surface; I go super deep.” 

Armstrong says he believes in being prepared. “I’m like, ‘Here’s how seven different companies do it. Here’s the research on it. Here are the things that I read and saw.” That’s the way to improve a company, he says. 


Watch Tim Armstrong’s full interview with Josh Golden to hear more.

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