Well, that’s not exactly what I’m going to write about, but it’s close. I was recently playing golf with Jon Dulac, and he suggested that I write a post about 10 things I’d do differently if I were starting TKG now. It’s not hard to come up with things I could have done better, but if I covered 10 things it’d be a really long post. So, here are 5 things I would change about how we built this business if I had it to go over again. These aren’t in any particular order, nor are they necessarily the 5 biggest things.
1. Emotional Decision Making
I didn’t realize it until the last few years, but Todd Whetstone came in and helped us see that we made a lot of decisions based on emotional rather than business reasons. It wasn’t intentional, we didn’t even realize we were doing it. We did however do a lot of things in the business and for people in the business when they “needed help”. Todd helped us understand that focusing on doing what is objectively right for the entire business is ultimately what is right for all of the people inside the business. That doesn’t mean we won’t help a team member out of a jam from time to time, however, it does mean that we must scrub every decision we make against the business goals and make sure we don’t get off track.
I am not a fan of debt. I never have been. Boy did I justify using it to keep things moving forward in tough times. I am an optimist, so I never thought twice about taking a little financial risk here and there to grow the business. In hindsight, I would avoid debt at every opportunity. It is incredibly expensive and can give you the opportunity to overlook other bad business decisions. We are now on a path to being debt free.
3. Recurring Revenue
Our business has always had a few sources of recurring revenue. Web hosting and our web marketing work have both been recurring streams for over 14 years.They have contributed to our sustainability and continues to be a big part of the reason we have been around long enough to watch dozens of competitors come and go. But a true focus with the goal of recurring revenue making up a certain percentage of our total revenue has really smoothed things out for us.
4. Online Marketing Service Expansion
For over 10 years our online marketing services were fairly limited to SEO & other very similar tactics. We felt that by sticking to that one service we were staying true to our principles and not “taking the easy way out” with things like Email and PPC. We now have better perspective. Our client’s usually aren’t too concerned with the tactics we use. Rather they are concerned that we leverage our experience to wisely invest their resources whether it be in SEO, PPC, social, etc. to grow their business. That’s what they care about. A couple years ago we started expanding our services to include these other tactics. We still do a ton of SEO, and leverage the principles we’ve learned over the years, but we don’t limit the tools in our toolbox. Given the chance to start over, I would add these services as quickly as we could professionally execute them.
Yeah this one is a little self serving – I like to play golf. About 5 years ago I had a friend and a client introduce me to the impact that golf can have on business development. We’ve all heard that a lot of business is done on the golf course, but how many of us really practice it? Not many. The fact is that if used the right way, it truly does have a substantial impact. It’s one of our primary means of new business development. It’s certainly a huge time commitment and a bit of a financial commitment. For our business, both of those have been paid back many times over. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to get to know the people we are doing business with and to really understand the core goals they have in mind. If I had it to do over again, I’d pick up golf right away rather than selling the hard way for 10 years first.
There are many other things I would likely do differently. That’s the beauty of hindsight, right? The good news, however is that we’re here, 15 years into this business, being given the opportunity to look back. More importantly, we have the opportunity to look forward and continue to evolve our business into something that kicks ass for our clients and our team.