How We Started Our Business (And Kept It Growing)

Our company started out like many businesses – we saw an area that we thought we could improve upon and we jumped on it. We didn’t have a crazy new invention or idea – we simply wanted to be the type of Digital Marketing and Web Design Company that we would want to work with if we had a project.

JSL started out small, just my wife and I, then it grew a little bigger, with a designer and an SEO manager, then a Content Creator, then a project manager, another designer, and a coder, etc., etc. But even though we’ve gone from a team of 2 to over 10, that isn’t the kind of growth I want to talk about.

Instead, I want to talk about how you grow a company from a small startup to something truly sustainable in just a few years.

How We Grew Our Company Each & Every Year

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

No, I’m not trying to insult you. But I am letting you in on a secret – a great business doesn’t have to be complex.

JSL Marketing started out simple – be better digital marketers and web designers than the competition.

Now that didn’t mean we had to get all of our clients to the number one spot on Google in 4 weeks, and it didn’t mean we had to offer web designs at the lowest prices – it simply meant we had to be a better company.

And we were.

We listened and took the biggest complaint we heard the most often about other companies, and then we fixed it.

That complaint was about communication, response times, and honesty – so that’s what we tackled.

Yes, we worked hard to use the best strategies, get the best results, and keep our prices fair, but the reason we grew was because we weren’t like the other companies in Dallas or Fort Worth. We answered emails the same day (if not the same hour), we answered questions, and were transparent and honest. We weren’t trying to trick our customers, we wanted to help them.

We did the simplest thing we could possibly do as a new business – we listened and then did what our customers asked us to do. We were a better kind of company.

Do What You Set Out to Do

This coincides with the above point perfectly, and essentially, it just means you need to keep your goal in mind, even when your company changes, the industry changes, or you have to adapt.

This happened with our company early on, as we went from part-time/freelance to a full-blown, first-page-of-Google web design company in a matter of months.

It was fairly easy to reply to emails and give each client the time and explanations they wanted when we only had a handful of them, but what about when we had 15, 20, or 25 clients? We were still just two people.

It would have been easy to start replying to emails less frequently, or to give shorter, less in-depth answers. It would have been easy to brush off some of our smaller clients and give priority to the bigger projects paying the bigger bucks.

But that wasn’t what we set out to do, and that wasn’t what we wanted JSL to become. So, we had a choice. And we decided to hire more people to keep up with the needs of our growing client base.

When the time comes, remember why you started your business and stay true to your values, and your unique ‘why’.

Learn to Delegate

When you make your first hire it can be hard to loosen the reins and let someone else take some responsibility. After all, JSL was the brainchild of Sarah and I, and we had never needed help with it before.

But after you hire someone, you have to learn to delegate – and you have to learn it fast. Because a big part of growing is being able to keep up, and we definitely learned that if we wanted to continue the quality of work and service we had been providing, then we would need more hands on deck (or, on the keyboard).

After our first hire, we had a 50% larger workforce, and an ever-growing workload. So, we began to use programs to help us keep everything straight, to share files and information, and to keep our timelines and tasks on track.

We chose Basecamp, as it allowed us to delegate and assign projects or tasks virtually, something that was incredibly needed as our SEO manager and newest hire was across an ocean and many time zones away.

Oh, and in case you are wondering – yes, we still use Basecamp.

Basecamp Screenshot

Treat Your Clients Like Friends

This doesn’t mean everyone gets the family discount, or even that the ‘customer is always right’ (because they certainly aren’t) but it does mean you should treat your customers fairly, act honestly, and always try to be transparent.

Being in an industry that many do not understand makes it easy to take advantage of those with less knowledge, and that’s one of the many problems we saw in the digital marketing industry when we first started JSL. Dishonest practices, misleading reporting, or even some companies who simply took their client’s money and then never provided any services at all.

You would never treat a friend this way, and that’s the principle our company decided to stand behind.

And, you know what? People noticed.

Referrals, Referrals, & More Referrals

Because our company listened, communicated, and helped our clients instead of taking advantage of them, we quickly gained a reputation for being a ‘friendly, family-styled’ company who offered corporation-sized results.

So, we asked our happy customers for referrals, reviews, testimonials, or to simply talk about us around the watercooler or in their communities and online.

I don’t know if this has been said before, but we think a happy customer is the best advertisement as well as the cheapest. And with each happy customer we had, more came in.

Of course, you will never please all of your customers, but we work hard to try. We even have ‘exit interviews’ for when a client decides to leave us to see what we could have done better, or if there is anything we can do at the end to help the customer feel like they have been treated fairly and gained value from our services.

Are You Looking to Grow Your Business?

If you have a business idea, or are interested in furthering your start-up, then contact me for business strategy or sales coaching, as well as start-up mentorship or speaking engagements. I would love to share more of the JSL story, growth, and approach.