Text 30 Oct So you wanna grow your business, you can’t scale caring

Today rocked, spending two days in London (where I am now) with Distilled peeps (yes my #1 competitor, whom I respect deeply) speaking about where this industry should be headed to gain real respect was awesome, learning from my peers, etc.  I have been an SEO since 1999, and I believe that what we are doing is a good thing, and I want to see the industry step its game up and get better and do real marketing. It also makes this tough, that I am exhausted and jetlagged (landed in london 2 1/2 days ago leaving tomorrow morning), I haven’t seen my wife in 33 days, and should be thinking about one thing…seeing her tomorrow (hope our flights don’t get cancelled), and I want to enjoy that time with her.

A little history on me, I never wanted to grow a company, I wanted to build a remarkable kick ass culture, one that kills shit for our clients, cares about our community, and cares about making our industry respectable.  The reason why SEER is at almost 60 people is because I kept meeting people who I thought would be good to work with, and meeting prospective clients who in my heart I thought we could help. Helping businesses and people is what is in the core of my soul.

As we got bigger I knew that I couldn’t manage the brand promise SEER made by myself, people like Crystal, Jamie, Larry, Rachael, and Adam have helped me day in and day out deliver on those promises, and I can’t thank them enough. There is nothing I believe in more than delivering on our promises. And our promise is that we will do great work and we will work our asses off to create success.  Sometimes along the way we make mistakes, and I’m OK with that, but there are some mistakes that hit you in the gut and you cant recover from as “learning”.

I promised these clients something when I signed that contract & where things fall short I always feel that when that happens, shit rolls up hill to me and I’ll do whatever is in my power to let our clients know I’ll die trying to deliver on what we said we would do. Why? Because that is what I would want someone to do for me.

This approach to running a business doesn’t scale, but I hope it leaves our clients with a deep feeling that we care. And I’ll take that sentiment (and less money) over scale any day.

I think caring about what your company name stands for makes growth very difficult.  At some point things get dropped and you have a choice, deal with client churn (add another sales person to offset it) or fight it with every fiber of your being.  I choose the latter every single day of my life. This is why some CEOs get hardened, I refuse to let that happen to me.

While that was disappointing  what made me leave dinner 2 hours ago, with 2 of my teammates was when I got an email from Jen Lopez from SEOmoz that was like dude, really, you guys sent this?? It made me sick.  Here is the outreach:

Did we just email SEOmoz asking for a “guest post” … yup.  That stings. How did a message go out from someone who definitely knows what whiteboard friday?

I could get that link pretty easy (I am able to post to SEOmoz).  Its these moments in your company where you say…is this what I built?  Is this what I’ve allowed us to become? (If you haven’t noticed the hockey goalie in me, thinks every goal against is MY fault, and it is). This is NOT the company we built, its an isolated mistake, there is a difference, but my teams mistakes are my mistakes.

How did we ask SEOmoz (and several other quality blogs in the industry) for a “guest post”?  Well I dunno, but I gotta find out.

I thought I was doing shit right…SEER was already not taking on any new business until late Q1 2013 because I wanted to make sure we weren’t growing too fast - I wanted to make sure that we gave ourselves time to make sure we delivered and I guess this is one area where I needed to work on more. I am going to have to brush myself off and keep on trying, but I dunno how I am going to feel about giving a presentation next week, I’m going to feel like a bit of a hypocrite, my preso is probably going to suck, but I had to write this because I didn’t want the few people who knew to be like, wil says one thing on stage but then has people sending out low quality link requests. I don’t.

These are the types of things that go on behind the scenes that NO ONE ever wants to talk about (well rand does), this is the inside of the guts of a growing company, shit gets hectic, and I guess if I cared about hitting X million next year then I could brush off mistakes and keep growing, but that’s not me - I wanna know primarily that SEER stands for quality.

I feel like SEER has a lot to offer our industry and we’ll correct this, but remember we make mistakes too, even on the path of doing great shit, we’ll give people second chances because we all make mistakes, its about learning from those mistakes, and I hope we’ll be better off for it.

FYI, I felt I had to write this, as the message went out to more than just SEOmoz, and while Jen sent this to me privately (much love for trying to keep it between us), I had to pull a B-rabbit vs Papa Doc and not let others pull the “can you believe what I got from SEER” card, yes we sent out shitty outreach, and yes we’re going to learn, and yes we’re gonna be stronger at the end of it.

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