Important Lessons Learned: If you HAD to Start Over WHAT would you do Differently?

Linda Buquet

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This powerful question is for you. Yes, <strong>YOU</strong>!

Knowing everything you know today,
if you had to start over in this business,
what would you do differently???​
Whether you are an old pro or just getting started, we've love to hear your answers to this question!

Mistakes can be our biggest catalyst for success and learning through others mistakes can help us all avoid them AND grow our business faster!

<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2heads.jpg" alt="" align="left" hspace="10" />Share some tips - Learn some tips.
The insights you share could greatly help others and you can learn something from the answers that get posted as well. I really think the old pros that have been doing this for awhile will be able to really help the newer ones trying to find their way in this Google Local jungle. But even if you are new in the biz, ask yourself and answer this question. You just may learn something!

OK, I'll start... There are many things I would have done differently if I were to start my business over today, but this is the most important part.

Back when I 1st started my Google Places Optimization business I should have had an assistant and learned to delegate better. I mean I DID hire an assistant to help me with grunt work like citations for awhile. But it didn't really work out well. The biggest problem though was ME! My business grew so fast and I was so swamped I didn't have time to train her. Often it seemed easier to just do things myself instead of teaching someone else. PLUS Google Places is so complicated it's was just really hard to explain what to do in every different type of scenario.

But I REALLY wish I would have pushed through that initial growth spurt. (When I went from $0 to over $--K a month in less than 4 months.) Wish I would have just FORCED myself to learn to delegate instead of trying to do everything myself.

Many don't know this, but about 6 months into my Local Search business (specializing in Dentistry) I totally crashed and burned. Had to literally close down for 2 months due to carpal problems and mental burnout. I didn't intend to build the business that hard and fast! Never advertised, prospected or did a single cold call. It was just like an avalanche. I didn't know about all the dupe problems and bugs, until AFTER I got too many clients. Then all the problems started piling up and my business pretty much imploded. Didn't matter how much $$ I was making, I was working 15/7 and no way I could keep up with all the troubleshooting.

PLUS I'm the type of person that can't sleep if client has a problem. ALL my Drs had dupe problems & many were nightmares! The dupes & bugs did me in! Back then it was much worse + there was no live support.

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I can work like a wild woman if it's positive/productive work and I feel I'm making a difference. But there were SO many problems and that's all it seemed like I was doing was whacking dupes and bugs. THEN my carpal totally gave out. It was either quit and rest or face surgery.
So I had to close down for a couple months.

I just think this business is WAY too labor intensive to be very successful as a one-person consultant - even more so today! I really needed help, just have never been able to delegate.

6 months later out of pure frustration I QUIT. I quit doing client work that is - and started doing consulting, training, blogging & running the forum. (Supporting you guys instead doing Local SEO myself.)
Those who can do, do - those who can't teach! :)

Full story of why I quit here:
<a href="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/quit-google-places-optimization.html">Why I Got Out of the Google Places Optimization Business</a>.
(There are lots of lessons about what NOT to do in that story too.)

<strong>LESSONS LEARNED:
1) Get out of your own way!
2) Get help
3) Learn to delegate
4) Create systems that make this business easier to manage.</strong>

I hope that this will turn into a rich discussion filled with lessons-learned and tips for success. Share your lessons, false starts and/or suggestions for doing things better.
If you give, you just may get back far more than you even thought possible!


I told you mine... Would you please think about the question and share yours???

If you had to start over…
what would you do differently???


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Linda Buquet

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Here are some related threads that you'll find very helpful.

Below is the 1st post I did on this topic back in 2012. Sharing now because there were some AWESOME insights from the pros, as well as lessons learned that are still very valid today.

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/consultants-corner/1560-if-you-had-start-over-what-would-you-do-differently.html">If You HAD to Start Over - What would you do Differently???</a>


And this is the courageous post that sort of started it all - by Travis Van Slooten:
<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/consultants-corner/1465-if-you-arent-making-money-local-search-engine-optimization-consultant-you-arent-alone.html">If You Aren't Making Money as a Local SEO Consultant You Aren't Alone</a>

Amazingly transparent stories on a very personal level were openly shared - you can also learn a ton here.

If your business is stagnating OR you are new in the industry... Heck, even if you are already successful, I think the lessons and reinforcement you can get from this thread and the 2 above could be a great Catalyst for success! OK now it's REALLY your turn...

Feel free to get as personal and deep as you want to. BUT don't feel like you have to write a book like I did. Even a one-liner like: "I would have saved my time for more important stuff and outsourced citation building"could be helpful for others to know.

Your Turn!
If you had to start over…
what would you do differently???
 

JoyHawkins

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Hey Linda,

I would probably say that being more picky on which clients to take on is something I want to do differently in the future. I think a lot of companies/people, including myself, sometimes take the wrong approach to this. I mean who wants to turn down money if someone wants to hire you?

However, I've learned that generally a small percentage of clients take up the majority of customer service time. Some high maintenance clients who are the type that are never satisfied, even with the best service, are just not worth the money.

The damage they cause by over-stressing staff can be very detrimental. In the end it's better to work with people who really want to work with you and see the benefit of doing so!
 

Linda Buquet

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I would probably say that being more picky on which clients to take on is something I want to do differently in the future. I think a lot of companies/people, including myself, sometimes take the wrong approach to this. I mean who wants to turn down money if someone wants to hire you?
Thanks Joy, was hoping you would weigh in and wondered what you would say.

Your comment reminds me of another great post that I have stickied to the Consultants forum.

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/consultants-corner/1169-just-say-no-bad-local-search-engine-optimization-clients-let-them-walk.html">Just Say No to Bad Local SEO Clients - Let them Walk!</a>

Many consultants shared that they actually started earning more and becoming more successful AFTER they started turning prospects away that were not a good fit.
 

Jo Shaer

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Definitely what Joy said - be picky and make a list of red flags that highlight very clearly who you should be running away from, no matter how much money they want to pay you. It just isn't cost effective.

But also, focus on the things that you are BEST at and employ other professionals to do the things that they are BETTER at than you! For example, don't lose weekends doing financial paperwork, get a good book keeper! It may sound like a big expense but it is so worth it.

As Linda said, spend time training your staff. I don't know how many times I say, it's quicker to do it myself but then I remember all the things that I haven't had to do today because I took the time to show someone else how to do it.

Running your own business is about getting a good work/life balance. I think most of us mess that bit up for the first few years!

Do some yoga or meditation on a regular basis and chiiiiilllllll out! Even if it is only for 15 minutes a day!
 

Linda Buquet

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Great advice Jo!

I think you hit on some of the most important things many people do wrong when they start in business.

Glad you brought up work/life balance, which is something I always struggle with, so it's a good reminder to put out there for us all!
 
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Since I'm not a freelancer, I don't deal with some of the most common problems, but there are a few things I wish I would have done a little differently.

First off, I would have turned to the community much earlier. It may be embarrassing to realize that I've asked a stupid question, or made an incorrect statement because I misunderstood something, but I've learned SO much from the advice that's been offered to me, and if I had known a few of those things sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration.

Secondly, I would be a little more concise in my explanations to clients (I could see this working in the opposite direction for some people as well). In my case, I have a tendency to over-explain, which can sometimes cause clients to hyperfocus on something that is small potatoes, and I waste more time satisfying those small issues than fixing bigger problems that the client can't see as easily.
 

HoosierBuff

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Great Post

I'm hiring my first full time SEO this week, so that I won't have to work as much on the SEO, and I can do other things.

I should have hired this person last year, which, would have been tougher financially, but, I think this is going to make things easier, and allow me to grow the business.

I think that has been the biggest issue. . . I need to stop doing everything myself, and bring in others. Though I worry about the quality, it's not like I'm the Michaelangelo of local search or anything, and if I can actually be more effective, its nothing but a win (minus the decline in revenue that I hopefully can grow around).
 

Linda Buquet

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Good ones Dillon!

I'm glad the community has been helpful for you!

I can really relate to the 2nd one too, since I have a tendency to over-explain. :eek:
 
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Great post Linda! And I agree with you Dillon, I've had those issues too. Turns out though, the right kind of communicating with the client isn't just about being more concise, it's about being more organized in my own thinking, and keeping a better 20,000 foot view without falling down rabbit holes, or at least not losing sight of everything else when I do. Definitely second that I wish I'd gotten involved with the community earlier as well... I can't believe how many pieces of incredibly important information I just didn't have, this stuff is critical if you want to make sure you're getting the best results possible for your clients. Not to mention the benefits of knowing people you can go to to ask questions... working in a vacuum where you're the only expert you know sucks.

The big thing for me though... know who you are, what your strengths are, and what kind of work you should be doing. I've spent over a decade working with my business mentor, and while I've learned an enormous amount from him, he's more of a rain maker. He likes working by talking with clients, finding out what their problems are, and then figuring out how to solve them. Working with him means you're always doing different things, in different industries, doing different kinds of work. I've learned a ton, but I don't make a good jack of all trades. I'm a masterer, a specialist. If for no other reason, than that it's really stressful for me to be doing work that's half an experiment. If I'm taking money in exchange for a service, it's kind of necessary for me to know the lay of the land. Even if you set client expectations appropriately (which we were generally pretty good at) I still just hate flying blind, and it's taken me a long time to realize that.

I feel so much relief now that I've narrowed my focus. One industry, one area of service. There's SO much to learn too... so many ins and outs, it's too hard to spread that around. Even aside from technical things (what are the valuable keywords in this industry? What are the valuable areas to explore for backlink building? Who are the social movers and shakers in the scene? Potential related service providers you could approach for a joint venture, guest post, or whatever else?) but it gets even more complicated. For this industry, how is the business structured? What are the main pain points for the business owners in this industry? What are some of the legal issues advertisers need to know about in this industry? What kinds of benefits/fears get a good reaction for consumers looking for providers in this industry? It's too much to do fresh every time, and that's even if you're not also trying to keep up on modern css/html/php/mysql, adwords, and whatever else.

So... yeah. Know yourself. Some people could be a jack of all trades and thrive I'm sure, but that life sure didn't make me happy, even if it paid the bills.

I'm also working right now on Linda's point... how to be a better delegator/collaborator. Goals for 2016.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks HoosierBuff and James.

You both mentioned getting help so you don't keep trying to do everything yourself.

James, you hit on something I'm passionate about. I too agree this business is too complicated to be a jack of all trades. I think focusing on one niche, building your case studies, industry knowledge all on one vertical. Easier on so many levels.

There is no way in hell I could have made the money I did in the 1st 4 months if I was working on mold remediation and roofing contractors and other stuff I don't know much about OR have interest in. Dentistry is what I know and was passionate about, so it made many things easier for me.

Thanks for all the comments you guys. I'm going to Tweet again and see if we can build this into a powerhouse of knowledge. Everyone here has so many good insights to share!
 

RyanScollon

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Thanks for sharing your points guys. I've only been doing bits and bobs of local SEO for 3 years now for a small marketing agency in the UK. Truth is, there are not many decent Local SEO agencies/consultants in the Uk so my main aim is t become one of them.

What's your thoughts on starting your own blog? At the minute, any blog posts or work I do is associated more with the company I work for compared to my own name. I'd like to create a reputation for myself & thought my own blog would be the best way. Still brainstorming the idea as I'm finding it difficult to come up with a plan to split my efforts across both.
 

JoyHawkins

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Ryan,

I started my own blog a year ago and think it was one of the best things I ever did. I use it to keep track of all the guest posts I make and I also dedicate some time after work hours to writing unique posts there as well. I also use it kind of like an online resume that shows the different events I speak at etc.
 

RyanScollon

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Thanks Joy! From the advice of yourself and many other local seo experts, it sounds like the right thing to do. The only issue I have is trying to split my efforts across my own blog and my work blog while not competing for the same content idea.
 

Linda Buquet

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The only issue I have is trying to split my efforts across my own blog and my work blog while not competing for the same content idea.
Joy has the same issue and blogs for the company blog as well as her personal branding blog.

Maybe she could share how she managed that in the beginning. To me it seems like she blogged for the audience. So the Imprezzio posts, although helpful were not always super advanced. (Targeted a little more toward their clients/SMBs) On her personal blog where she's doing a great job of branding Joy - she seems to write higher level info that pros would want to read. IMO.
 

mborgelt

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One thing we are starting to get back into is providing resources for the community. We are in a rare space that fosters collaboration and group learning so we are going to start to contribute to that. Also, picking clients correctly was a pain point for us in the past. Like Joy said, it can be hard to turn down revenue.
 

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