What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
I would say there were really two major events that turned Resound into a business:
First, all the paperwork. My co-founders and I created articles of organization that dictated some basic rules of how we wanted to do business together as partners. Then we filed all the necessary paperwork with the state of Arizona. Yeah, it’s about as fun as it sounds.
And second (and probably more significant), we talked my dad into letting us rebrand his janitorial business as our first client project.
Getting that project, successfully executing it and getting paid was a really big deal to us. It was our first significant brand development project together as a team and it really set the tone for our entire purpose as a business: creating remarkable brands the delight their customers.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
For me, the scariest part has been when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to other entrepreneurs or business executives. We work with a lot of CEOs and CMOs to drive strategy for their brands, and our primary competitors have often been doing it a lot longer than we have. It’s easy to compare myself to all of them, to look at their years of experience and their massive teams, and become overwhelmed thinking they have it all figured out while we’re still in the middle of creating our business.
As I’ve talked with more agency leaders and entrepreneurs, I’ve come to realize that no one has it all figured out. There are agencies run by extremely experienced leaders who struggle with the same things we do: finding and keeping clients, executing at the highest level, making it profitable and creating a remarkable culture.
I now embrace my inexperience. It’s an asset not to come with preconceived and established methods, and instead create a team of brand builders who get to do it in a new and different way.
Is it challenging? Absolutely. Does it keep me up at night? Sometimes, sure. But I take tremendous joy in getting to chart our own course in our own way. And as we gain confidence, our clients feel it, too. They see that what we’re doing isn’t just the same old surface-level methods they’ve experienced in the past and they appreciate the depth at which we attack their customer experience problems.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
I honestly don’t think I’ve encountered anyone who’s explicitly told me to not pursue building a business. I’m sure someone somewhere was shaking their head at me behind my back, but never to my face. I am so blessed to have had amazing support from a litany of people in my life. My amazing wife, my parents, my co-founders, and even former co-workers and bosses have all been very supportive of me building Resound.
I do think that there are some key steps I took early on to help them get behind what I was doing:
- I had very serious conversations with my wife early on about our financial expectations from the business, the goals we wanted to meet each year and the time commitment necessary to reach those goals. I can’t give her enough credit for being so extremely supportive in this whole process.
- I waited as long as possible to jump full time into the business. I made it clear with previous employers that I was taking on projects outside of work and that my end goal was to take it on full time if it worked out. As business owners themselves, I think most were very understanding. I’m sure it helped that I made sure I followed through with my commitments to them while I was employed.
And when I did go full time, one of them ended up being one of our biggest referrers of new clients.
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
I wish someone had told me how hard it is to sell brand strategy as a service. And that the only person clients really want to be sold to by is the owner of the agency. That would have saved me a lot of time in the last year and a half.
I’ve learned this mostly through trial and error as well as some really good advice from agency business development consultants like Blair Enns and Drew McLellan. Those guys give away so much great advice for agency owners through their writing and speaking.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
Build a personal vision for yourself. What are your personal goals for the next five years and how can you build your business to support them?
I started the business with a few personal goals that have really helped me in structuring Resound and building my role to serve those goals:
- I wanted to work with an amazing team of creative people. So far, we’ve been successful in building a phenomenally creative team. I can honestly say I love working with each and every one of these gifted people.
- I wanted to find a balance between work and family. It took some work to get there, but I’ve been able to mostly unplug on nights and weekends. This has been huge for my own sanity as well as my wife and kids. There is nothing I look forward to more at the end of each day than going home and spending quality time with them.
- Driving strategy for clients. Prior to working at Resound, I had worked at several agencies and design shops. While each had great strengths, I never felt the freedom to really direct clients with their brands. Resound has given me a tremendous opportunity to do that with each of them.
How do you end each day and why?
I read, mostly novels, historical non-fiction, business and biographies. I find that ending my day with deep thoughts from others is not only a calm from the daily storm of responsibilities and tasks, but also inspires me to think bigger and grow.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
Develop a clear purpose for your business. There is nothing more compelling than a raison d’etre when you’re talking to a potential customer, friend or stranger. Think about how to position your business as unique in guiding your customers through a problem that they need help with. And paint a tangible picture of what success looks like for them. Remember: Your business is not the hero. Your customer is.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
I think this has been the biggest question that myself and my co-founders have wrestled with over the years. Right now we’d love to grow our agency to 40 to 50 employees in the next five years, building remarkable customer experiences for value-driven brands of all sizes (not just the big ones — though those often pay the bills). I’d personally be over the moon to work with someone like Lego or Disney!
But really, the key is brands with deep, ethically-based values. There are so many entrepreneurs and leaders starting and building amazing brands that really serve people beyond making a buck. Those are the brands we want to help.
Long term, I want to build processes to bring employees into ownership and make sure Resound is around for decades to come.
We’ll see what happens.