Take care of yourself — make sure you’re ok before trying to lead a company. Too many times I see business leaders trying to lead a business while being burnt out themselves. That’s a disaster waiting to happen — hand the reins over to someone you trust for a few days. Go recharge, and reset and come back stronger.
As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Raso.
CEO and Co-Founder of Online Marketing Gurus, Andrew has had a long, illustrious career in the SEO and SEM industry. After years of working for agencies, Andrew started OMG to remove the complexity of SEO and provide simple, transparent results. He has recently won a B&T 30 under 30 award in the Entrepreneur category.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. I started with selling PS4s as a teen, then freelancing as a uni student. I actually built my first website — for my personal training gig during uni and I did SEO on it myself. Ever since learning about the ins and outs of SEO, I’ve been hooked on the idea of being an entrepreneur ever since.
I started working in the world of SEO in agencies before I finally decided to start Online Marketing Gurus (OMG) with my best friend.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Hmm I guess all mistakes are funny in hindsight! I’ve made a couple mistakes when I first started, but nothing that’s amusing or funny in my opinion. I think the most important thing to do is just to learn from your mistakes, and not be afraid of making them as well!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Of course, I’m eternally grateful for my dad. He made me the person I am today. He has always put me and the family first. I saw him work a huge amount of hours, everyday, in order to put food on the table.
When I started OMG, he was always there to support me. He’s seen the ups and downs and has gotten me through the hardest times. Just recently, we’ve moved into a new office and he has been helping me with all the renovations. There’s been countless revisions, changes and rebuilds. But he’s always been there with no complaints, every step of the way.
Family comes first before absolutely anything. There is no hidden intentions, there is no hidden love. It’s completely unconditional and that’s something amazing. I’m blessed to have the most amazing family and support network.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, my dad is a business owner. It didn’t sit right by me seeing business owners (my dad and my friends) get ripped off by dodgy marketing companies — who’ll happily take your money and pull wool over your eyes. I thought — there’s gotta be a better way of doing SEO and marketing, and I wanted to build something of my own. My mission was just to do right by businesses, multiply their hard-earned money by investing in digital marketing that actually worked and delivered serious bang for buck.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I think that staying agile and being adaptable is the key to pushing through a pandemic and coming out on top. Even during tough times, while everyone was focused on cutting costs, at OMG we looked for opportunities to grow. We created the SuperGravity group by looking at bringing in some of our best partners in business all together in one roof, we also looked at acquiring some smaller agencies that were struggling.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I’ve never, ever considered giving up. People think it all came easy. That it was an overnight success. That it was something you’re born with, or that someone just handed it all down to you. They see the cars, houses and lifestyle and ponder who gave it to you. It was anything but. They didn’t see the time you had 500 dollars in your bank account and risked it all for a shot at the title. Times like this make me realise that you should never stop and get comfortable.
There is no way you can ever give up. There are nay-sayers waiting for your downfall about to say, I told you so. It’s been difficult recently. People trying to take what you made. But I will NEVER quit. I won’t give anyone that satisfaction. EVER!
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I believe as a leader, you need to give as much consistency and clarity as possible during a really uncertain time. Everybody is already anxious about the world around them, so you want to be able to give them a workplace that they feel comfortable in. Of course, not to mention that as a leader, you also need to make sure all your employees are looked after whilst maintaining the livelihood of the business. But I would say the most critical role of a leader is just to create an environment where there is consistency and clarity.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
I think the most important thing you can do is to keep everyone in the business informed about how the business is REALLY going. It’s really important to be honest and open about this, as this creates a comfortable and safe environment in turbulent times. It’s also really important to open channels of communication. Let your team know it’s okay to reach out to you if they have any concerns or need any kind of personal assistance.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I always try to do this face-to-face. But if this is not possible, at least do it over a video conference call. Don’t just text/email your team and customers. When delivering the news, you also need to leave some time for your team to ask questions. For example don’t do it last thing on a Friday and just leave before anyone has time to process the news and ask questions.
I think it’s important to focus on the facts, and how the company is responding as well.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Focus on the data. That’s all you can do, when everything else is unpredictable, your numbers won’t lie to you. Make sure you have as much information as possible in your hands. THEN you can make a plan. But be ready to revise that plan on a weekly (even daily) basis.
It’s all about pivoting, and pivoting quickly when situations change on a daily basis. When the pandemic first started to get serious in March, we quickly pivoted our marketing strategy and overall business strategy. I think the key is just being adaptable.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I would like to point to one of our own company values, which is ‘evidence, not opinion’. Ultimately, we can only make the best decisions by using data to drive the way. This is true in turbulent and everyday situations. These data-driven decisions also help you give much-needed confidence and clarity to your team.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Sure, a lot of the times, these mistakes are so easy to make, we’re only all human! Here’s some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen
- Stopping Marketing & SEO efforts altogether — Although marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can seem like the easiest thing to cut when things are going downhill. Businesses should be looking for ways to adapt their marketing strategies to suit the changing conditions instead of stopping it altogether. Your competitors are still doing marketing, so why should you stop? Especially with SEO, there are a lot of things that happen in the background, and once you stop, all the momentum is lost and your website can lose rankings.
- Not communicating enough — I see it all the time. When a crisis hits, the leadership shuts down and there’s no communication. Employees are kept in the dark and morale will generally be very low. So even if the business does return to ‘normal’, the synergy and productivity is lost.
- Consider a turbulent period ‘downtime’ — Sometimes you have no choice but to shutdown your physical business, but there is so much that can be done. You can move your business online, find new ways of operating and even get your team upskilled.
- Giving up — I’m talking about completely giving up, and just shutting the business down without trying to find alternative ways of operating or going digital. Sure, sometimes there is no choice but to let go of the business, but there are almost always a solution to your problems if you look hard enough.
Overall, I think It’s important to remember what has changed, and what hasn’t changed. The challenge of leadership is to differentiate what’s real and what’s illusionary. While the future is definitely uncertain, one thing is for sure: life goes on. We need to stop living in fear and be realistic, and opportunistic. Find a way to look at the big picture and be flexible.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
For us, staying agile and adapting to the market conditions is the most important strategy of all. We use all the data that we have at our disposal to support our business and marketing efforts, and pivoting our strategy. So always look at the numbers and adapt!
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
I’ll keep these nice and short
- Take care of yourself — make sure you’re ok before trying to lead a company. Too many times I see business leaders trying to lead a business while being burnt out themselves. That’s a disaster waiting to happen — hand the reins over to someone you trust for a few days. Go recharge, and reset and come back stronger.
- Always look for opportunities — even during challenging times, there are opportunities. When everyone’s trying to save, save, save, you should be looking to invest — there are always hidden opportunities out there — even during turbulent times.
- Work with your team — don’t shut yourself off — collaboration is best when it comes to coming up with new strategies to move the business forward during turbulent times.
- Be Transparent — Everyone has a good BS radar, so just be upfront and let your team know what’s going on in the business. This will help foster trust and add authenticity to your leadership.
- Be Adaptable & Agile — I will reiterate this time and time again, don’t get stuck in old ways of thinning, embrace new ways of doing things
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Mindset is everything”
I went for a walk with my friend the other day, and it was dead quiet. He said “appreciate this, it’s the last time you’ll see the streets like this” then I started to appreciate everything.
I have a business that thrived when things got tough. Everything around me, I just had a different reflection of and for the first time in my life I was truly happy.
As soon as you look at things differently and change your mindset, that’s when happiness will find you!
How can our readers further follow your work?
By visiting the OMG website https://www.onlinemarketinggurus.com.au/ and our blog.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!