What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
I noticed and confirmed there was a real need for what I offered. I was running the digital department at a radio broadcast group in South Florida. We had a lot of interaction with traditional agencies placing radio. Some had mentioned that they wanted to jump into the digital space and provide these solutions to their clients but they didn’t know where to start. Building out an entire department is a daunting task when you don’t know who to hire. If the person you’re hiring is any good, the financial commitment can also be daunting. A lot of factors go into starting and operating a digital ad team. So the first thing I did was confirm that multiple agencies were struggling with this same problem. I created my firm and lined up a couple of clients and we were off and running.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
A huge fear I had was taking the initial jump. Regular paychecks were going to be a thing of the past and I wasn’t sure how I would adapt to that. I was making a good living, had a good career with an expanding company. To get off that bus at an unknown, unchartered stop in the middle of nowhere was intimidating. The idea of not knowing where my next dollar was coming from, not knowing if I had saved enough to support myself, even on a restricted budget, weighed heavily on my mind.
You’re never going to have saved enough; to be in a perfect situation to start anything. The best you can do is build up the confidence that you are going to make your dream happen no matter what. Get acquainted with the notion of watching your budget and live as long as you can on as little as you can until you get your legs under you. It’s been a year since I left my steady job and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a roller coaster but it’s worth it. Take the plunge. Jump in now before its too late. Just know that no matter what happens the experience is more valuable than anything you can do working for someone else. That value is your safety net.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
Nobody who I would take advice from offered that position. I am pretty selective about who I listen to for advice. There isn’t anything wrong with working a steady job until retirement. It’s just not for me. Had a mentor of mine or colleague who I take seriously offered that advice, I would have ignored it — no question.
You need to have thick skin and realize that everyone is willing to give their opinion on literally anything. Talk IS cheap. I take advice from those who’ve come before me and have the credentials and real life experience to give advice on the topics I ask them about. That kind of talk is invaluable.
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
People are all too willing to take advantage or push around a new business. Established businesses have the luxury of deciding who they want to work with and the terms of those deals. Saying “no” to a new deal or to terms of a deal is a luxury that I, as a new business owner, didn’t think I had.
It is so tempting to brush off establishing any ground rules for fear that the deal will go away. I was so excited to get the deal, I’d bend over backward to get it done and put it on the books. Don’t compromise yourself. Take a breath. If the competition is so dense that you have to give up all your cards, that isn’t a piece of business you want to begin with.
You’ll be much happier (and so will your client down the road) when the rules of the game have been established from the beginning. Otherwise, expectations go haywire, the client assumes you’ll agree to anything and you’ll just end up letting them down. You can only meet expectations that are set.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
Every new founder needs to constantly be studying businesses and founders/leadership of organizations 5-10+ years advanced of their own. Read about them, figure out and identify any struggles they had so you can try to avoid them yourself. These aren’t always easy to find since everyone always wants to paint the best picture possible. But occasionally you’ll find a founder or CEO who writes an article where they open up about what problems they had to overcome. This free knowledge can help you avoid a costly mistake.
Keep rewriting your company’s mission statement. Even if you’re not making any changes to it, you’ll be surprised at how it evolves as your business evolves. Studying this evolution can give you insight that nobody else has into your own business.
Personally, you need to relax, take time to read, be with friends and just unwind. Sleep in. Go to a movie. Try to do things that require no brain power so you can reserve that mental capacity for solving problems with creativity instead of fatigue. A rested brain will come up with a creative solution. A fatigued brain will come up with the easiest one.
How do you end each day and why?
I review what I did that day and what I need to do the next day. It takes about 15 minutes but I like to review who I called, what we spoke about, emails I answered, etc. Doing this clears my mind and quells any anxiety I have about productivity. When you’re on your own, you can get lost in your work and at the end of the day, it might feel like you didn’t do anything which makes me anxious. Simply going over what it is I did and looking at what I need to do reminds me that I made progress. As long as you’re making progress, you’ll have no reason to feel anxious.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
Network! Join your chamber of commerce, go to happy hours with your attorney, accountant, old co-workers. The more people you can meet in person and tell about what you do the better. Even if they’re not a candidate for you professionally, explaining what you do in this no-pressure environment helps refine your pitch for when it matters.
I would also suggest hiring a good graphic designer and develop a marketing piece explaining what you do with nice looking visuals laying it out. Have them make an infographic that’s visually engaging. This is a much better leave-behind than a business card and you can use it in many different scenarios.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
I want to change how digital advertising is bought. It’s a confusing, ugly world right now and it’s filled with confusing acronyms, user interfaces, people and sub-par customer service. Each program/solution requires such intimate knowledge that it’s easy for marketing teams/business owners/agency buyers to get bogged down in the weeds when all they need is a solution that works. The digital/tech sector has created so many tools that make life easier. We believe running effective ad campaigns across multiple platforms shouldn’t be so difficult. Once we unclutter this industry, we’ll look for another problem to solve.