It’s been one year since I started my marketing business and I find myself in a reflective mood, analyzing the road I’ve traveled. 

Eight clients later, a small team of incredibly smart people and a new name has me feeling good.  I’ve found the general theme is around people and to “Know thyself well.” 

Here are my thoughts on starting and running a small digital marketing shop over the past year.

I have a business adviser and I’m pretty comfortable sharing information with him.  One of our recent chats I expressed my frustration that I feel at times I’m fighting a, “Too good to be true” factor.  Upon many of my first interactions or engagements, people tend to be really excited around me and build me up to be better than I am.  Kudos to me as a sales man? That’s hard to live up to and usually leads to the same ending.  Things go well for a long time, but eventually something will go wrong. When that happens, I wonder if it’s magnified just as much and I don’t want that to be any part of my reputation moving forward.

He said in his experience many people do in fact just judge a book by it’s cover. If people aren’t willing to hang on or read the additional chapters, there isn’t much you can do. The only thing you can control is putting your energies into finding people who will. I’ve largely had this in mind when working with clients. We’re looking for long term..

I’ve found that setting boundaries and being very careful what you sell is the path forward … a luxury I have as the owner 🙂

One of the primary reasons I started a business was because I didn’t like the experience I had at past, smaller agencies.  The mantra was to sell stuff we couldn’t execute with promises to expand once the deal was done.  Talk was cheap.  I also found that trying to talk things through or a willingness to be apologetic when a mistake was made was viewed as a weakness.  Project strength no matter what!  I’ve never felt that way and was determined to create examples where that wasn’t the case.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was going 80 miles an hour through a construction zone and got pulled over.  The officer informed me my license was suspended from an unpaid parking ticket, I was speeding (obviously), and not having a front license plate was a problem.  I expected a mammoth ticket, but treated the officer cordially and told him the truth.  I didn’t know about the parking violations and was speeding because I was nervous about the sales meeting I was going to.

My jaw hit the ground when he informed me I wasn’t getting any tickets.  He wished me luck on the call, asked me to take care of the outstanding items and had me on my way.  Was it because I was polite?  I don’t know…but I have zero examples where me or someone else loses our head (and it’s definitely happened before) and had it work out well.  

Anywho, this mode of operation has been on full display with our clients and one of the reasons for naming the company after myself.  My reputation is my livelihood..

Being polite doesn’t mean that you should try to please everyone, though.  As mentioned, we’ve gotten good at setting boundaries with clients and just in life.  I think a big part of that is saying what you mean and then doing what you say.  I am very upfront on sales calls and with current clients on the areas of marketing that we can help them in, along with the things we cannot do.  I believe sometimes (actually I’m certain) it resulted in a lost sale, but at the same time it weeds out companies that wouldn’t be a good fit.  You know what else that does?  Puts the focus on creating great relationships with the clients that do sign up.

In a world full of business executives that are Steve Jobs wannabes, the mantra is to charge hard and move forward no matter the cost.  Another thing my adviser shared with me was what it means to be a decent person.  I already knew this from my upbringing, but it was nice to hear him say that being a real human being at times means sacrificing parts of your own agenda for the sake of personal considerations. That sounded a lot like me and something that I think will set me apart as a business executive.

We are an affiliate partner of Mabbly, a Chicago Digital Marketing agency, helping to manage any lead overflow.  They have a strong message about finding your tribe.  

Isn’t that what it all boils down to?  Finding acceptance for who you are.  To do that, you have to tell your story and open yourself up to rejection and possible ridicule in the marketplace.  If you do that well, you will find the right clients who need what you offer. 

I’m very proud of the team we’ve put together.  We trust each other and we have all sorts of conversations.  Most of them are great, but occasionally you run into bumps or have differing opinions.  I’m very pleased that in all cases, people sit down and talk through them rather than just get mad about it. 

Mistakes tend to be great fodder for criticism or reasons to pick apart an initiative.  When that goes on long enough, good luck with whatever initiative you’re working on.  It’s going to fail.    

I’m always fascinated by the idea that the more you’re involved in, the higher the margin for error.  It makes sense.  If you only do one thing, you only have to be really good at one thing.  If you’re doing ten things, you have to strive to be really good at all ten.  That’s much harder, obviously and results in an occasional mistake.  For perfectionists who found it, they are going to hone in, judge the hell out of you and ignore all the other good stuff.   This is largely responsible for that magnification…

John F. Kennedy said that, “Victory has a thousand fathers and Failure is an orphan.”

That hasn’t been a problem with us this past year.  Our egos (yes, they exist) are no longer that big or fragile.  We know who we are. If you want to do a ton of marketing and to get started on initiatives that have failed in the past, we’ll get you moving.  Unfortunately, that mode of operation tends to come with an occasional mistake or two.  I’m not suggesting that is okay, just that we’ll acknowledge them, fix them, learn from them and keep things progressing. 

In this day and age, I think like many of us, I find that image is everything.  I don’t like that.  It seems more important to project yourself a certain way, regardless of the actual reality of the situation.  In these cases, if you poke past the facades, you will likely find a paper thin back story that crumbles.  No meat and potatoes … just some really nice looking vegetables.  

I was part of a campaign that wrapped up just a week ago.  We lost, but I’m extremely proud of our efforts.  The candidate focused on her strengths and we came up with a great story about offering a fresh start and selling her values around integrity, commitment, family and faith.  When she walked into a room, it wasn’t just her talking points…she exuded it.  You could feel it.  Maybe that seems like any other campaign or politician, but there was a lot of meat behind it and an entire county in Wisconsin now knows who she is.   I’m convinced she is just getting started… This isn’t a dig at her opponent, either.  He also had a great story around his experience.

The reason I bring this up, though is because it goes back to the idea of being true to yourself, your product or your service.  This is something we talk about a lot with clients.  There is no point in setting up a bunch of Digital Marketing if you don’t have a story that will resonate with people or be backed up with credibility.

The only reason I can think that people sell things they can’t execute on is due to ego (complete the sale no matter what!) or because the company wants to rapidly expand so it can be sold off.  You know who suffers in those cases?  The client.  You know who gets blamed when things go wrong?  Not the one who sold it because they’ve already moved on to their next victim. The last thing I want to do is hire the wrong person or take on so much work that anxiety begins to run rampant.  The way around that is to expand only as needed. 

Through my first 33 years on this earth, I have not shied away from making big decisions or jumping into situations with both feet.  So getting comfortable with the fact that it’s going to take me time and patience to get the right clients and the right team was a huge hurdle to overcome.  If I was building a company to prove how great I was or looking for some sort of misplaced vindication, I believed I would fail in the long run.  Luckily, I don’t feel that way anymore.  While we certainly have competitors, we’re not competing with them for the sake of it.  We’ll all get to where we want to go, eventually. 

So there you have it.  What’s on tap next?  Growing and honing in on good business processes.  I’m still a terrible accountant, but luckily I have someone helping with that now … and he’s very good at it.  

I like talking about this stuff.  Shoot me a message if you’d like to continue the conversation!

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