Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. Today we have Ken Wisnefski on the show. Ken has had major success with numerous businesses including a company called VendorSeek which he sold in 2008 and his current company, WebiMax, a premier online marketing firm. He has been named to the Atlantic City Top 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40 and has a lot of information to share. Welcome, Ken. Thank you so much for coming on today.
KEN WISNEFSKI: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
JAIME TARDY: Great, so actually, when I was doing research I read in your bio that you guys take the magic out of online marketing and you work with your clients to really get results and that really intrigued me because in social media and online marketing, there’s a lot of hype and not a lot of results. So what sort of results do you actually deliver for your clients?
KW: Well I think one of the biggest things that we’ve always talked about when we look at that is really, when we say taking the magic out of things, I’ve always looked at online marketing as companies kind of trying to keep everything behind the curtain and not really showing people the way it’s done and I think there’s the perception that there is some sort of magic in online marketing and what we’ve really done is make it a lot more transparent. Our clients are able to see the tasks that we’re performing for them and ultimately being able to provide them with a client center that really is able to be able to tie to results and analytics so they can actually see things in motion but also see how those things have imparted effectiveness upon their campaigns that they’re putting in place. So, that true transparency I think is what we reference when we say taking the magic out of SEO and online marketing.
JT: And I think that’s really important to show what your doing, of course, but showing them how it helps their bottom line because that’s really what companies care about nowadays. Excellent.
KW: Absolutely. That’s what everybody is interested in and I think a lot of companies that we’ve spoke to that have worked with other firms they always come back and say, “Well I know I paid monthly but I’m not really sure what they were doing and I’ve got to be honest, I’m not really sure what results we got from that.” That’s always been the type of mindset I’ve had in building the businesses really allowing companies the opportunity to see all those things and feeling comfortable with the results that they’re getting.
JT: Definitely. So what I’d love to hear from you too is some tips because you probably have a lot of information on online marketing and SEO and social media. Lately I’ve been running into companies that have an employee that have been told to do social media and they really have no idea what to do or where to start and they’re probably not social media people to begin with. Companies just know well it’s hot now and we need to start doing it. So what would you give for advice for an employee that’s supposed to be the social media person to start with at a company?
KW: Sure. I think the biggest thing is to not try to overdo social media. I think again like you mentioned, companies have people that are their “social media” person and they’re just putting information up there that almost becomes overwhelming where they’re just putting 20 tweets up a day about things that aren’t really all that important and again, I think people look at different case studies and maybe they’ll look at recently, you know, Charlie Sheen or what Kim Kardashian has done and they’ll think that well that’s what we need to do for our business. And the reality of it is that I think for celebrities people feel endeared to them and maybe want to have some entrance into their daily lives and they’re curious about what they ate or whatever the situation may be but when it comes to businesses for the most part, people aren’t quite as interested in some of those small intricacies.
They’re really more interested in just facts and maybe offers or specials and I think it’s really before you go and start to do the social media for your company, take some time and think about really what the customer behavior is and how you can really begin to leverage that so you can actually see a return on your online marketing specific to social media as opposed to just kind of doing it to do it.
JT: Definitely. That’s what a lot of people are doing and that’s really great advice. So what would you tell someone that’s sort of a solopreneur because I know we have solopreneurs listening too. Is it the same sort of thing or would it be different?
KW: No, it’s the same type of advice. I think sometimes something that I could suggest that’s good for companies that are more of a solo type of operation is in those type of situations I don’t think it’s bad to add a little bit more of your personal or personality into it because you’re the person that they’re going to be really dealing with and you’re the person that they’re really going to be speaking with so in some cases like that, giving a little bit of a thought or even a little bit of an insight into your business that will make people feel a little bit more connected with you isn’t necessarily the wrong move to do. I think that probably again it could endear people to you a little bit more and people feel a little bit more closer with you and when you’re actually dealing with them to purchase or for your service, whatever the case might be, they’re going to feel as if they’re a little more connected and aligned with you.
JT: Now do you happen to have any case studies that you use that can sort of show the growth of a company or solopreneur going from just starting out in this sort of online marketing space and then moving to great growth?
KW: Sure. I mean we’ve worked with companies, smaller companies that have had great success with that. We worked with a company that was a gym in New York. It was a personal trainer in New York and she was able to really kind of see growth and kind of again get to the point where she was seeing a lot of different people coming in interested in working with her because they had kind of become a little bit more invested in some of the areas that she was doing. And again, I think when you’re talking about a small one-man type of shop that’s the type of scenario where if you’re going and you’re actually putting some of your internal personality into some of these things, people find out that it relates to them and they feel a little bit more at east perhaps when they come to speak with, especially when you do something that in some cases people might feel intimated by, you know, a personal trainer or whatever the case might be and with the anticipation that they’re going to be really rough or difficult to deal with.
When they see maybe that person isn’t that way, that endears certain people towards them and if you are really rough and difficult maybe that endears people to you as well.
JT: So what did you do specifically with her to actually have people walk in her door?
KW: Really I mean I think one of the big things nowadays is really taking some time and spending some effort on your website. I think what happens is people nowadays pretty much all have websites. But the reality of it is that they don’t spend much time updating them. They don’t spend much time really putting a lot of additional information in there that can really help them and again, this doesn’t have to be something that’s extremely costly or extremely exorbitant to get done but the way I look at websites nowadays is really back in the old days when the storefronts would have their windows and everybody would stop by the windows and look at the different products and that’s what drew people in to actually come into the store, websites are that now and you’ve just got a much bigger potential audience that can look at that window.
So we worked with her at first just really doing some basic updates and changes and kind of refreshing and livening up her site and from that point, being able to post additional information and updating some articles and some of the good things that she had going on made almost an immediate difference.
JT: Really? Okay. See I’m a bit of a geek so I have a degree in IT and I love sort of the geeky side of things. So just setting up her site better, did she already have a lot of traffic and you were just sort of converting it better or where you driving traffic?
KW: We were converting it better and also one other thing is nowadays Google has placed a lot more prominence on their locations and their Google places and it’s something that’s extremely easy and low cost for companies to do. Just follow, you can google Google places and you can pretty much set it up on your own without having essentially any technical experience. And that was something that we worked with her on and just got that set up and she found that suddenly now when people were searching New York City trainer or personal trainer, things along those lines, her company was popping up in a matter of days.
So that’s a scenario where nowadays natural search isn’t as much of a prominent area sometimes on the local side in that particular respect because the prominence that Google is playing on the local search are things that someone can do on that type of level without having even used a company like my own.
JT: Great. I love advice like that, that we don’t actually have to use you. Not that you aren’t great at what you guys do I’m sure, but that’s really great that you can give us tips that we can actually do. So since we’re talking about Google, and this is sort of, you may not know too much about this, you must know a little bit, but the Google algorithm change. Everybody is sort of running around in a tizzy right now with the Google algorithm change. What can you tell us about that and what tips do you have on taking advantage or fixing the issues that people might have run into on that?
KW: Sure. I mean I think the biggest area is that the recent farmer update as it’s been really realized on the fact that a lot of companies were working and utilizing what’s called the content farm, just sites that were just really set up to just have information to provide some sort of value for natural search and they were getting links whether they were paying for those or however the situation was set up. So the reality of it is the best things to remedy that are to just, when you build up content or rate articles or whatever it is, utilize fresh content. Take the time to actually write it yourself.
When you’re building links for your website never pay for them. Never rent them. Never get into a situation where this could be something that’s going to get you in more harm than good with Google and that’s something we’ve seen with a lot of clients that, you know again, as Google evolves and they find these loopholes and these areas and these niches within a larger community so online marketing being the big community, the niches being these companies that basically just sold links and rented links. They’re really being, that loophole is being closed by Google.
And in turn, just working on the more organic and natural process is something that they’re really looking for and they’re looking for ways to close those loopholes and the short cuts that people utilize to get better rankings. They want people to do it the right way and not be able to just have a bigger budget than the next guy to be able to get better rankings.
JT: So that seems like it helps out the little guys way more than those huge content farms which helps all of us.
KW: It does and ultimately, Google’s whole preference is to just be able to have the rankings that are going to be the most targeted and that’s really what they’re looking for, the most relevant. Relevancy is key here and if a small company is the most relevant for those search terms, their interest is having that be the most relevant return that shows up as opposed to some big company that maybe does that type of business to a small extent but there’s another smaller company that does that type of business and that’s the only thing that they do. Clearly, it is a lot more relevant and a lot more targeted and that’s Google’s whole process is to really make sure that they’re returning the results that are really going to be the most usable for the people that are actually doing those searches.
JT: Excellent. So good for us maybe not so good for some other people at this point. Excellent. So I just want to talk a little bit about ad words and Facebook and do you guys do any of that stuff or do you recommend or do you not recommend it?
KW: Sure, we do. We do both of those. To start with ad words, for us, I think one of the biggest keys to that is there’s definitely viability in it but it’s an area that people can end up using and frankly wasting a lot of money very quickly because if it’s not set up correctly and not very targeted again, what can happen is you can end up getting a lot clicks and not get a lot of return. So the whole industry of paper click search through Google ad words and through the Yahoo Bing combination is something that really needs to be approached delicately and there’s things such as Google analytics that you can tie to this. You can see your conversions. You can see how many people are actually coming on to it and putting some sort of action into your website whether it’s collecting leads or whether it’s actually selling product.
These are the things that you want to be able to look at and be able to discern. Hey I spent X amount last month and with that X amount, this is what I got back. So the underlying analytics that come out there are one of the key components when I look at the Google ad words is that’s one of the things I always let people know is make sure you understand when you’re spending that money what you’re really getting back for it.
JT: Definitely and it’s funny because Google now has advertisements all over the place giving $100 away and then having you work with one of their experts to try and make it better. I can see where they probably see people having issues of just trying to throw money at it and not knowing what they’re doing and then saying ad words is horrible I never want to use them again. It’s a hard sort of a slippery slope.
KW: It is. And one of the funniest things I’ve mentioned the notion of Google’s experts working with you for your campaign. To me I’ve always likened it to as if you went into to grocery shop and in the store they have someone who said, “Hey I’m going to walk along with you here today and we’re going to help you shop.” They start to just pull things off the racks and they say well do you need oranges? Great. Do you need a dozen? Well how about we give you three dozen and they just continue to give you more and more of different things and basically now they’ve, you know, a shopping order that might have been $50 is now $150 because they have a vested interest in you buying more from that store.
Just as Google has vested interest in you spending more with them. Are they really helping you in optimizing your campaign? Not at all. Anybody that we’ve ever spoken with that has utilized the Google reps really all they’re doing is finding ways for you to just get more clicks and that’s pretty simple to do. So really, more clicks just amounts to more revenue for Google.
JT: That’s a really good point. I’ve actually talked to them and I remember going, “Hmmm I think I know more than this person does.” And I don’t know that much about it.
KW: It’s true. No, it’s true. It’s certainly something I feel again, you know I have all the respect in the world for Google and what they’ve done and clearly they’re a great company. I think just getting somebody set up to actually advertise online, yes, their “experts” can help you with that. There’s no question. But really for someone who is interested in really optimizing their campaign and really making it something that’s going to be effective, all they’re really going to do is help you find ways to get more traffic, to get more clicks and again, those clicks come at a cost.
The more clicks you get, the more money you spend and clearly if Google has made such a large effort into placing this many people into that role, the reality of it is they see it as a profit center. The X cost for these employees will result in this much more margin and I caution people against that all the time. I think the word experts, ad words experts, is not the reality of it. I mean they have vested interest in having you spend more money.
JT: Yeah, they are a good company, right? They know what they’re doing.
KW: They do know what they’re doing and that’s why they’ve been so successful.
JT: Excellent. So now what I’d love to talk about is sort of how you started WebiMax because social, not even social media but web marketing is sort of this big huge thing now. How did you sort of set yourself a part from the competition. Well when we were actually, when I owned VendorSeek early on, I had not really great expertise in online marketing and I had worked with a couple of firms that kind of promised me the world and it was in the early days of natural search engine optimization and I was promised the world, told they were going to do a lot of different things and at the time when I really didn’t have very much budget to spend at all, most of it went towards that and I saw absolutely no results.
So over time, it really became apparent to me that I needed to become a student of that game to really grow my business and placed a lot more emphasis and time in learning it and basically taking over that component and doing it ourselves and really working with it and as we evolved and basically became our company VendorSeek, what we did was weed generation for the B to B industry. So a lot of these SEO companies were our clients.
When I finished up and actually sold that business, I looked and said to myself, “Well this is an opportunity to really become into this industry because frankly I don’t feel there’s a lot of legitimate companies in that industry and I don’t feel there’s a lot of companies that really offer anybody any value. So the reality of it was when we had looked at starting WebiMax and the decision was quite easy, I think it was just a scenario of finding an industry that I knew I had a certain level of expertise in and I looked at what else was out there and although there is a lot of companies out there, I feel there’s not a lot of companies out there that can really provide true value to their clients.
I think it’s a very small select group and I feel that’s why in a relatively short period of time we’ve been able to establish the type of reputation that we have.
JT: Excellent. So in trying to get WebiMax started, how did you go into starting from a brand new company to this big premier online marketing firm?
KW: Basically we had started out small. It was actually kind of intriguing and it’s something that I think about. We had gone from being a $5 million a year company with VendorSeek and being to the point where we were busy all the time and had a pretty decent size staff and the next thing I know, six months later here I’m back at a start up with no revenue and no clients. It was a little bit puzzling and it was just kind of, I would tell you for about a week there it was kind of almost a culture shock for me because I had done all this and I had kind of worked through all that to get to that point and now I found myself right back at that same starting point.
So, for me, I think the biggest thing was really just getting the process rolling and we took on a lot of small clients, we did some work gratis for people just to be able to get clients in the door and it was really just about building those case studies and building that client base of people that could actually show the value from what we were doing and at the same time, we are able to refine and hone our process to be that much better and we always continue to do that but I think the beginning was really accepting that we were going to immediately lose money but to do so, we would be able to build upon that so a lot of those clients we started with at that time, they’re still our clients and their business has grown exponentially over that time.
But again, I think taking them on and doing it at what we would consider to be a much lower cost nowadays, the reality of it is that’s what helped us build that building blocks for getting us to where we are today.
JT: I’d love to hear when did you start WebiMax? What year?
KW: I started WebiMax right around October 2008.
JT: Oh wow, so it’s not even that old of a company. Excellent. So how did you find…
KW: Not that old of a company.
JT: Yeah, I mean in web years I know that’s a very, very long time. So how did you find those first clients. I know you said you did some without pay which is great to hear. A lot of people don’t hear that this big premier web marketing firm also had to do things for free at the very beginning. But how did you find clients when you first started?
KW: Truthfully, we actually went back out and just identified companies that were local and just offered to come meet with them and initial analysis, initial online marketing analysis for them and a lot of them realized right away that they weren’t really doing a good job online and that they needed to improve upon it and certainly, if you think back two and a half years ago almost, we were really in the midst of the beginning and kind of really the onset of the financial crisis so companies really were the biggest thing was hey we realize we need help here but it’s about the last thing we have budget for.
So that’s when I realized the best way for us to be able to build this would be to just do things for free and we’re going to take a hit on it but this is how we’re really going to be able to build our book of business and gain on things and from that came a lot of referrals, a lot of people that came back to us and said, “Hey I know you’ve done great things and so and so recommended you and we’re interested in working with you” and we scaled our pricing.
To begin with, the entry level pricing was a lot level than it is nowadays but again, we needed to show that track record. We needed to show the ability that we had to be able to get things done before we could expect people to just kind of take our word for it that we were going to be able to do the right work for them and were going to be able to get them the results they were looking for.
JT: How many people did you start with when you first started?
KW: We had, at that time, myself and about five other people so we were obviously very small and then over the course of time, we’ve grown and people that actually had worked for me at VendorSeek are now back working for me again. So I’ve got a lot of same people that were with me before and clearly, a lot of new people that have been great additions to the team. So just as far as growth, our growth over the last year really catapulted. It wasn’t an immediate success.
I mean when we were doing all that work and doing a lot of that free work there for awhile, things were just not really, they weren’t really catching on. I mean we were catching on but we just weren’t really getting any revenue coming in. We were getting more clients but it wasn’t equating to a whole heck of a lot more revenue and we actually caught a break. We had done some work for another retailer kind of gratis and they had seen some really good results and low and behold they had spoken with somebody at some sort of convention and they had mentioned hey these guys are kind of start up but the owner of the company is pretty experienced in online marketing and it was actually, it was Sam’s Club.
They were our first really large client and that was the moment we kind of got our first big break. that’s when that project made things very viable. We were able to grow and we were able tor really scale from that point and there we ramped the house. A really high level case study of what we were able to do for a very big company and we kind of haven’t looked back since.
JT: So how many employees do you have right now then?
KW: We have right around 120 employees.
JT: Nice. That’s excellent. So, then I have a question because it seems like right now we’re sort of in this social media online marketing bubble where everybody is talking about. It’s the coolest thing on the block. What are your thoughts on that and what do you think is going to happen when the bubble ends and we have all these social media and online marketing firms that sort of can’t handle it?
KW: I think that the bubble is only going to intensify to be honest with you at least for the foreseeable future because just more and more growth is really coming into this industry. I think when you look, I think even some of the large, large companies have yet to really embrace online marketing. Even a lot of publishers and different things they haven’t really yet to embrace it and really look at it as much as they should but just again, I know I referenced it briefly before, but just everything that has gone on with Charlie Sheen over the last few weeks, I mean he just basically utilized social media to really get his message out and it has proven just how effective it can be.
Again, clearly you can see just how low budget his approach has been but the reality of it is has been the topic of just about every conversation out there has been revolving around the comments and whatever he is talking about lately and I think there will be a lot more interest in it and it is going to continue to grow. But just like anything else, I think these industries that are “hot” I was involved in the staffing consulting industry during the whole Y2K experience back as 1999 rolled over into 2000 and there was so many companies involved in it then and the reality of it is that the good companies will always survive and the ones that kind of just trying to get into it because they see it as an opportunity to earn a fast buck, typically those, nowadays I think are found out a lot quicker and there’s not that opportunity to really land prudent people as maybe there were a few years ago.
JT: That’s really a good point that you don’t even see it as a bubble. That’s great. As things go then, as it grows and grows and grows, isn’t it going to be a lot harder for anyone to sort of break through all that noise because there’s going to be so much more competition with SEOs, so much more competition on Twitter and Facebook to actually have someone actually read what you’re writing and blogging. So what are your thoughts on that?
KW: No, it’s definitely a good point. I mean the competition within both of those areas is going to become a lot more involved and I do think that it’s going to really be about companies really looking strategically about how they want to do things and ultimately Twitter and Facebook, while they’re certainly the biggest thing right now, if we were having this conversation four or five years ago, everybody would have been talking about MySpace and at this point no one is talking about it. I think that you’ll see that things like Twitter and Facebook will probably evolve and there will be other things that will kind of come into the forefront and be utilized and maybe make them even a bit more user oriented to where you know people can really refine things a little bit better and not get every message and whatever the case might be.
But the one giant I don’t see falling anytime soon is Google. I think they’re going to continue to be on top for the very much the foreseeable future but I can see these things such as Facebook and Twitter being surpassed by something else that becomes a bit more trendy at some point.
JT: So that’s sort of a good point just in general of Google because I know just doing my own SEO work and stuff like that, I have a guy that does that for me and it’s even harder now because you see these companies that have domains and websites that are really, really old and have tons and tons of back links. So it’s hard to start to compete with them. So get in on it now while it’s still the best that you can get because 20 years from now I can imagine how different it’s going to be. So what I’d love to do…
KW: I totally agree with that.
JT: Great. Well what I’d love to do is go back a bit and sort of talk about you growing up and how you actually started as an entrepreneur because right now we hear you have a hugely successful company with 120 people but how did you really start getting into entrepreneurialship and starting you first business?
KW: Well truthfully, the very first business I had I can’t say it was a really business-business but when I was growing up I was a big baseball fan and in turn, I started to collect the baseball cards and at first I was just enamored with the read them and study them and the different players that I liked. One day, I went somewhere and I saw that people were selling them at a marked up price and from that second forward I never really looked at anything the same way. I realized well wait a minute, you can get this here and now you can sell it for this price and I just really saw it as a business from that point forward and I think I was in sixth grade at that time. I really just did, that was kind of, for me, was my launch into it. And again, all through high school that was kind of my, that was what I did. That was my job.
A story I told a few weeks ago was there was a player, an up and coming player, that played for the Yankees and I’m from New Jersey but the middle part of New Jersey so I’m kind of in between New York and in between Philadelphia so we were kind of exposed to those markets and I remember I had my father drive me in towards the Philadelphia area and we went to one of these baseball card conventions and I found this particular player’s card for I think I paid about $0.50 for it. Next day we drove up towards New York. I had my dad drive me up there. I was able to sell those same cards I paid $0.50 the day before for $10 up there because it was regionalized and he was a big deal in New York and he wasn’t a big deal in Philadelphia.
That’s what really got me started and interested in business. Beyond that, as I kind of worked for other companies, I would always look at the way the owners and the people that ran the businesses did things and certainly I was an employee so I wouldn’t have as much say but I always logged the way that they did things well and the way they did things poorly. A lot of that knowledge that I was able to derive from that is really part of my managerial process nowadays and how I handle things.
I think the biggest thing I can say is just really being hands on I noticed the businesses that I worked on and was involved with when I was an employee, I really did a better job for the company that the owners were really hands on, they were involved, they were really into it compared to the ones where the owners were really aloof and just not really there and had no idea what was going on and would periodically come in and scream at everybody because the numbers were low and then they were gone You wouldn’t see them again until next month. I think that’s been one of the biggest things I can say. It’s just really my emphasis on being hands on and really involved in the day-to-day operations and with the people.
I think it goes a long way in being able to build the right type of camaraderie within your company to really get everybody on the same page. I think that’s a big part of being able to grow a business.
JT: How long were you an employee for someone else?
KW: Right after college I actually worked so I guess I was probably in the business field working for about five or six years. I got involved in the staffing industry, basically contract staffing and I did that and what actually made me decide to make the move and launch VendorSeek was really two fold. I cold called all the time. I was an outside salesperson so was on the road, knocking on doors all the time and developed a very thick skin in doing so but over the course of time I always thought to myself well I’d love to have a business that would enable me to really just narrow down the people that weren’t interested in what I had to sell but just not even saying that they wanted to buy it from me but just have an interest in the product that I had, the service that I had.
If I could spend my days speaking to those people, I would be that much more successful and things were on a real upswing through the whole Y2K and I had some very good clients and I was actually stationed in the New York area at that time, Newark, Jersey and Manhattan were actually my territories and everything was still continuing to go well into 2001 and 9/11 happened and everyone in my territory basically was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Day-to-day no one was really sure what was going to happen, whether there was going to be another attack, whether there was going to be another situation that put us in a very bad position and no one was hiring. People pretty much let all their consultants go and I found myself in a position where I just really didn’t have anybody to sell to and my numbers were just awful.
At that time, I decided that I wanted to try and take some of that time where I was just basically, for all intents and purposes, unemployed to try and start VendorSeek and utilize that idea and again started it very slowly and literally out of my basement. It took some time to grow it but after we got it going it really took off.
JT: So tell me about your mindset because how did you take that leap from working for someone else into now I’m just going to start my own business and try and make something from nothing.
KW: I think basically the biggest thing for me was it was something that I always wanted to do and I just saw the opportunity and I actually had the concept that I thought would be viable and I remember when I first started VendorSeek and I just had a friend create the website and it wasn’t what I wanted it to be but it was close enough to kind of get started and I remember just calling a couple of companies right off the bat and ask them if they’re interested in registering and becoming a part of what we were going to do with VendorSeek and right away they were just like yep, absolutely and signed up and started to get customers on the first day I started it.
So I thought to myself, well maybe this is a good idea and maybe I should continue down this road. So I guess my initial thought was I was just going to do it somewhat as a part-time business and just try to put a little bit of emphasis into it and go out and try to find another job. But once I saw that there was traction there, I realized that this was my focal point and it really became my baby so to speak to really work on and again, it took some time to get where I got it to but I certainly learned a lot along the way.
JT: Wow, that’s a really cool way of going about things starting in your basement and having it be a multi-million dollar company not that long later.
KW: Thank you.
JT: So tell me about the growth of VendorSeek. How did it go from your basement to when, I mean you sold it in 2008 and you had quite a few employees like you said. So how did you grow up from basement to so big?
KW: For about two years, it lived in, it was in my basement and it was growing and growing and growing and it was to the point where I actually felt uncomfortable taking on another employee and I actually brought a gentleman over that is a personal friend. He had actually worked with me in the staffing industry as well as my first hire so to speak and he actually was a partner in the business as well. I had gave him some equity for kind of taking a leap of faith and believing in me and kind of coming over to take on this venture.
Once he got involved and we were able spend more time really growing the business and focusing on things and being able to really get things moving, we moved pretty quickly from that point but in the last year or so that we owned VendorSeek, that’s really when the growth happened because I think for me, I was very, very conservative. I was extremely conservative. We could add more people. I wasn’t really willing to, we had put whatever money I could in personally and at a certain point I realized I could make this grow more if I had more money.
It was difficult while we could, it was easier to get money from the banks then. It wasn’t easy to get a large amount of money from the banks so my wife and I, we put home equity lines on our homes, we did whatever we had to do and in turn, we got the financing basically to really be able to take the business and add more staff and more people and we just grew extremely quickly over the last year that we did and I look back on it and now I’ve become so unfazed by the risk that you take but at the time that was a very challenging thing for me to do because I had run it very conservatively. I was able to make enough to continue to kind of live off it and now we were going back and we were making this very important financial decision to really expose ourself.
If it didn’t work out, I’ll be honest with you, we would have been in a horrible spot so for all things considered, I knew failure in this particular case wasn’t an option.
JT: Wow. So tell me about that feeling of knowing that as soon as you took all these loans that you were the one responsible and you really had to make this work. Like what were you thinking in your mind to push yourself through?
KW: Well, the best part of it too was we decided to do all of this when my wife was about five months pregnant with our first son.
JT: Of course, right?
KW: So it was the challenge of taking on that but at the same time knowing if it was just my wife and I we would be okay but now we’ve got another one that’s going to be coming into our lives that we got to make sure is taken care of. So at first, there was just a lot of sleepless nights, that type of concern over it but I always knew that if I worked as hard as I could on it and was able to put forth that effort, that would be what would make us successful and again, I’ve mentioned this before and it’s not something that I’m at all happy that it happened this way but amidst all this as we were really growing, my mom got sick and passed away.
I can remember during that time literally not even really being able to focus on it because we just had so much work that needed to get done and I could remember coming home from her funeral and having to work. I never even took a day off within that timeframe just because of where we were. Again, I just couldn’t let myself get unfocused to be able to really keep going because we just had too much at stake to kind of take any time to really reflect on things.
JT: That’s tough. It sounds like you have a massive amount of perseverance to just push through no matter what the situation is. Wow.
KW: I think when you decide to take that type of leap, these are the challenges and I think when people look back and when people come to me and say well you reap so much benefits from being a business owner, these are the stories that people don’t often hear because it’s probably not stuff people love to talk about. But these are the things that really separate successful businesses I think from unsuccessful businesses. It’s just the dedication and the desire that the people that own these businesses are willing to put into it and again, I look at it and I see it as, for me, this is the only way I would know how to be successful is being this involved and putting this much effort into things.
JT: Now do you think that’s innate though? I mean you were doing that baseball cards way back when. So do you think that’s innate just in you or in a successful entrepreneur or is it something that you can cultivate?
KW: I think you can cultivate. I do. I think I personally have some friends that started businesses and they didn’t have that mentality to begin with. They kind of had the mentality that hey I’m the owner, I’m going to be the czar, I’m going to be the one that’s going to tell everybody else what to do and they saw very quickly how that really didn’t work for them. That they needed to make changes. My place was always you need to rely upon yourself to get these things done. You can’t delegate everything. You need to be the one who’s accountable for this because nobody has as much vested interested in this opportunity as you.
So I think a certain part of it is innate but I think if people have the passion and really want to make it work, I do think that it’s something that can be learned but I think that the biggest thing that it comes to when you want to start these businesses is you have to have the dedication and you have to understand that some of the good things that can come from it in the long run you have to put your time in and you really have to be willing to make some sacrifices to get there.
JT: So when you were little selling baseball cards, did you know that you would eventually be so successful and be a millionaire?
KW: No, I didn’t. I was not the greatest student. I did okay. I was an okay student in college but I think once I got out of there and realized, I think the thing that I have that’s probably helped get me to where I am is just the fact that I’ve always had the dedication and when I found something that I really became invested in, those were the things I always felt I excelled at. I think when I’ve been given the opportunity, that’s really what helped me grow and become there. But I still, as a matter of fact, just recently someone I went to high school with reached out to me to help them with their website and some of the marketing for it and in my discussion with him it was again, I think he was trying to be polite, but I think I could almost sense the surprise that he had that I’ve kind of achieved the level that I have. I kind of understanding where he’s coming from so I wasn’t insulted.
JT: That’s excellent. That’s a good place to be.
JT: So for the last question I have for you, what’s one action item that a small business or person listening can do this week to grow their business and reach their goal of a million?
KW: I could tell you the thing that I would always suggest and I think it’s often times the most overlooked thing when businesses are starting is you don’t have to get the most expensive accountant out there but get somebody else to really help you to make sure you’re understanding where your money is going to, what type of return you’re getting on different things, being able to look at some type of trending.
I’ve spoken with more companies and businesses that have just started up that basically have just not understood that they were losing as much money as they were and I can tell you from my personal experience, once I got involved with an accountant, I found out so many loopholes and so many areas that I was losing money in. It was probably the biggest eye opener that I have ever had and for me, it was actually a friend of mine that I went to college with.
He did it for me for next to nothing to just kind of help me out. But it made the biggest difference in the world for my business. So I think it’s something that people don’t spend enough time on but it’s the most important thing I feel to really get a good handle on where your business is and what you can do with it.
JT: Perfect time right now before tax season or in tax season.
KW: Perfect time, yes.
JT: To start thinking about that stuff. That’s great advice.
JT: Excellent. Well thank you so much for coming. Where can we find you? Can you give us your website? I know you have a free consultation on your website too. Can you tell us about that?
KW: Sure. Absolutely. You can come to WebiMax.com which is webimax.com and there is free consultations and we can basically take a look at your website, evaluate it and give you somewhat of an indication on where we feel it needs help. We have programs for everyone from the large, large companies out there to the start up ventures and our interest is being able to really help everyone and we’ve really taken a lot of pride in being able to do that.
JT: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time and being here today, Ken. I really appreciate it and I hope you have a great day.
KW: I really appreciate it as well. Thank you for the opportunity.
JT: Take care.