There are a lot of reasons to setting up your business. In the beginning, it’s all about putting your knowledge and talents into serving others.
When I started my first company, Business Research International, Inc. DBA Bizresearch, I was 27 years old. It was April 4, 1997. I was idealistic, bright-eyed and well, you know the rest of that saying. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I knew I’d figure it out, and I did.
It took me six months to land my first major check, $10,000, for a market research project. I had used my recently acquired network from public speaking at a Chamber event to get in the door. Within the next year, I did my first paid SEO project for a company for $1,000 up-front and $1,000 two weeks later to get a site in to the top of the search engines. Within five years of being in business, I was exclusively focused on search engine optimization and website analytics.
Some great milestones included:
- Receiving a check for $50,000 up-front for one year’s SEO work
- Receiving letters from college students who wanted “a career” with Bizresearch
- Cresting the first $100k in sales, followed by a year where we hit $500k in sales, topping out at close to $750k
- Being asked to speak at Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Strategies (SES) conferences in 2001, again in 2002, and again and again, so that I was speaking at six conferences per year
- Getting asked & paid to travel overseas to speak at London and Stockholm SES
- Signing my first office lease … and remember how my stomach turned as I sat outside unsure on one hand, positively sure on another that this was the right thing for my business
- Trademarking, patenting, meeting with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and fighting for your software patent – being called an “Inventor”
- Hosting a luncheon of 150 people in the room celebrating the initial launch of Bizwatch, our SEO analytics software
- Being asked and paid to travel back and forth for C-level client meetings
- Closing our first really big deal, $22k a month for just SEO services for a well known brand
- Hiring my first VP
- Getting approved for our first, second, third and fourth small business financing
- Having a team of employees present at our conferences
- Time and again, genuinely enjoying client successes, employee careers blossoming
- Setting up our first 401(k) plan
- Influencing how others think, what they do with their lives, and helping people to do really well, in both their business lives as well as personal.
- Developing a concept, delivering it to the Dean of Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, and seeing it become a reality, and a 754 level course that was filled with 50+ hand-picked college students (Year 1 and Year 2) who later graduate, some of whom went on to become search marketers
- Separating the software company from Bizresearch, and creating SMI Analytics DBA Bizwatch as its own company
- Teaming up with some really strong colleagues to product Bizwatch’s latest software solutions – most recently, it’s automated PPC & SEO Audit
Learn the basics of marketing, selling & increasing revenue for your business:
When you become a successful business owner, you learn to define your products, determine pricing, learn how to and where to promote. You learn that some clients will allow you to grow your business, and develop a strong foundation. You learn all about selling. You learn to keep your backbone intact. You learn to fight for your clients, vendors and employees. You learn to fight for your business, for survival.
I’ve had a lot of mentors and fellow CEO’s take me under their wing:
- One fellow CEO said to me, “It gets really lonely at the top.” He was and is right.
- Another CEO told me, “One day you will fire your client, and then another client that fired you … they’ll be back.”
- Never have I heard such amazing stories of sacrifice other than from CEOs who have given it all up for the sake of their business or employees, constantly inventing and re-inventing to keep the welfare of not just themselves but for dozens if not hundreds of their employees
We all have stories of grit, persistence, super smart & yet, some really bad decisions that affected the company’s progress. Business owners have to sort out the noise as they grow. For every person who tells you that your product or service needs to do something different, there are hundreds who can tell you that they love it, as is! And, even better, they pay full price for it.
Every Business Owner Has Their War Stories … The Ones They Only Talk About in Trusted Circles. Perhaps some were due to being a female in a small business, where some may try to take advantage of that situation:
- an unlimited share of employee issues, that when I retire I will make time to write a book;
- A handful of male clients who have certainly tried to see if I was an ethical leader or not….
- Have never paid myself more than six-figures … and more than 20% of sales.
I can proudly say that these 17 years of running a business have not been easy, but I have learned more than I could ever have imagined. What keeps me going?
Positive, creative thinkers solve problems. They are visionaries by nature. One mentor said there are three types of people:
- Creatives or visionaries
- Task-oriented individuals
You can’t be all three. Understand what category you fit into, and if you are the business owner, entrepreneur who is a creative & visionary, you have to invent & deliver your product in a place at a price that allows you to put managers and task-oriented individuals into place without failure. Business owners need resolve and tenacity. They need to plan for and not get to caught up in their own failures, or failures of others. One of my close advisors once said, “It’s by failing that we learn. If you fail to learn, well, then you might as well stop being in business, or doing whatever you do.”
But that’s what a business owner does best … almost to a fault, they have the ability to put on blinders, to shut out the noise, to shut out those who don’t believe, and focus exclusively on the success stories of their clients, employees, vendors and associates. They stay up to pay the bills. They figure out a way. They never give up, even when they want to or others tell them to.
For every phone call you receive, where someone doesn’t get what you do, there are others lining up saying, I love your product/service and wish I had more of it around. What do you need – you take credit cards, right? Here’s my number. And so you get back to business, to what you do, to what you believe in – and you keep inventing new ideas, new products or services and you deliver.
And that’s why I have been in business … 17 years, with a second company well on its way to delivering a quality product that serves hundreds of PPC & SEO marketers. My goal is thousands … and so because that is my personal goal … and I have bills to pay, I keep charging on, pricing accordingly, and ensuring we grow with a strong foundation and a strong product line.
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