Overcoming The Obstacles Of Going Solo
Friday was the last day of my security. Today, I’m a full-time business owner. I’m completely out of in-house, and 100% dedicated to Greenlane Search Marketing, LLC.
I’ve been doing work through Greenlane since 2005. Most of the time it was split between other internal roles with agencies or in-house. I went 100% solo once, and failed. Naturally, I was a little gun shy about trying this again. But I’ve realized things truly are different (if not evolved).
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”
Richard Branson and other off-beat CEOs have been the subject of a lot of my latest readings. Clearly, I’m getting the bug again. I’ve sat in rooms with some incredible CEOs and CMO’s – some well-known, some not. My father is very successful in a large company in Philadelphia, and an influence. I like the way many of them look at running a business as an art form, where there is no real playbook. I like that many successful CEOs aren’t the serial-killer personality types that we’ve come to expect. I’m not smart enough to compete on an intellectual level with most Wharton grads, but I started to get confidence that reminded me I didn’t need to.
Then again, I’ve run important marketing departments. I ran SEO relationships with companies like GNC, Petsmart, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, and Mattel. So I do have some experience. The only thing that was holding me back was the risk of security and the memory of past mistakes.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
I have that quote from TS Elliot on my wall. I’m not a big risk taker, but I do want to explore as much of life as I can. This quote was strong for me. A motivator.
I used the excuse, “the timing is bad,” when thinking about going on on my own. But when is it ever good? I have a lot of expenses (an ex-wife, a wedding coming up), my fiance is on disability for a few months from a necessary surgery, and there’s some other potentially expensive things going on. Plus I have an 8 year old son. I’m sure I’m going to rack up some credit card bills, but I’ll be able to see my son and fiance more, while finding happiness in (re)building a business.
This was also a motivator.
I had the fear of failure, but a lot of thoughts on how to learn from my past mistakes. I weighed it out, and made some adjustments. I suck with accounting and bookkeeping, so this time I partnered with an accountant. I was not disciplined enough to work from home, so this time I got an office. I didn’t enjoy being a one-man show, so this time I teamed with consultants, and built with a partner who is much smarter than me (more on that later, but it’s someone I know and trust, and is more of the straight man to my shenanigans).
So now I have a team. I already had great clients, and was forced to turn some good ones down. That pained me. I had the same business plan, just more robust now. I had a defined, reachable business goal. Based on the skills of our team, we even had some stronger differentiators now. What I didn’t have were core values. We looked into what we believed in, based on what we’ve seen from other agencies (including SEO), and pulled heavily on our past experience. We realize we’re altruistic people angry at the game. So, we built something around that.
Let the past feed the future.
Not a quote, just common sense. From fear of more mistakes, and the time clinging on to a security blanket, I did make some good choices. I’ve done B2C agency work for over 10 years, but had little experience doing in-house B2B. I took a position in a growing, well-funded company. This was a conscious decision to learn something new, and hopefully have a long stay. I had some serious on-the-job training by a company of seasoned businessmen. I’m quite proud of that decision, and struggled with leaving a good company two years later. I simply found myself always returning to Greenlane.
Working in-house was an amazing eye-opener. I recommend all agency folk try it at least once in their life. Want to really understand the game? Put on the client’s shoes.
The biggest motivator – Inspiration.
If this industry should be remembered for anything (in my opinion), it’s the warmth and openness of the people. What is it about SEO and digital marketing where so many of us want to be writers and confess honestly the issues of running a business? Wil Reynolds is a friend and early influence. It blew my mind how much he gave away to an industry full of people who would use the info to win business against him. In my first agency run, I was forced to be closed to the blogosphere. I was asked to present (being with GSI Commerce/eBay), but I couldn’t do the SEO presentation I wanted to do. Julie Joyce was more than happy to share her heart and soul with me, and gave me incredible motivation (even if she didn’t know it). AJ Kohn, James Agate, Dan Shure, Rhea Drysdale, and Mackenzie Fogelson are all people I met in person only a year ago, and I thought about them often when designing my second run. They’re very inspirational. Nick Eubanks, Eppie Vojt, John-Henry Scherck, Mark Kennedy, David Cohen, Anthony Pensabene, Justin Freid, and all my Philly SEO friends have been incredibly valuable. It’s inspiring to be surrounded with a great support system. And of course, my original SEO rock band of Ian Howells, Bill Rowland and Anthony Moore. The most influential team of my life.
Thanks to everyone in this industry for helping me realize my dreams, and giving me the courage to make them a reality (and ultimately push me into the pool).