Have a goal in mind. — Without a goal in mind, you can easily let the emotions get the best of you and push you towards giving up. At some point, you will feel the emotions and weight of being an entrepreneur can feel like you are carrying around a backpack of 200 pounds. When you have to have a clear goal, it allows you to reverse engineer what you need to do to get back on the road towards it. Making sure that goal has your “why” behind it will allow you to keep you pushing through the hard days.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Spears.
Brandon Spears is a co-owner of Double X Digital, a digital marketing agency, and a member of Apex Executives. The Louisville, Kentucky native has taken the initiative in becoming the best marketing agency emphasizing contracting companies. Brandon also coaches young and coming entrepreneurs in the digital marketing space and is a loving, single father to 3 children.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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 was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. I started working in contracting at a young age on weekends because most of my family worked in different contracting businesses. During these long, hot hours of the day, my dad would always tell me, “You needed to learn to work with your brain and not your back so that you do not end up like me.”
At the beginning of my work life, I didn’t take his advice. I worked in contracting for 4 years prior to taking time to learn how to work from a computer.
I originally started designing and coding websites, and as the market shifted, I switched to paid advertising.
I landed my first digital marketing gig using paid advertising for a local MMA gym back in 2018. The campaign goal was to grow the women’s program through a 6-week weight loss training plan. I ended up bringing the gym 15 paying clients and growing the Facebook group we created to over 100 women. That was all she wrote, I was hooked!
I have now done digital marketing for 10 years and have worked with hundreds of businesses running their digital marketing campaigns through various platforms such as Facebook and Google.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My “Aha Moment” was when I realized every single business needs marketing. When I saw how quickly social media transformed businesses, I went all-in on starting a digital marketing agency. I wanted to make an impact helping people achieve the American dream of owning and running a successful business.
As my book of business began to increase, I knew that the growing pains coming with it would demand more work than what I could produce as a lone entrepreneur. Last year, the pandemic smashed the progress that many small businesses make. They were hit hard with closures, restrictions, and more for themselves, their households, their employees, and their clients. Anyone who is in business understands the ripple effects this has from the bottom to the top.
This was especially true for my business partner, Jose Sanchez, who moved from Alaska to Texas for employment, only to be let go 3 days into the job due to the shutdowns. There were essential businesses out there that needed help getting their name out to operate during a low economy, and this allowed us to scale quickly by niching to a target market of businesses that would avoid closures, should anything like Covid-19 ever happen again.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later? Can you explain what you mean?
In my opinion, true entrepreneurs must come from something that deeply motivates them. For some, it is a purpose or passion, for some its money and materialistic things, and for some, like me, come from a place that they did not enjoy growing up in. I grew up in poverty with 4 siblings in an exceedingly small, 3-bedroom home. A world full of hand-me-downs and second used items that my parents worked their butts off for to get us by. If I wanted something new, or to participate in activities or something for entertainment, I had to find ways to make money. When I was seeing that struggle, I knew that once I was in adult life that I would make sure that it was not the case. I was an entrepreneur born from my situation, always hustling.
I can still remember going door-to-door to my neighbors to see if I could shovel snow off their driveways and sidewalks until I had gathered up enough money to purchase my first lawnmower at the young, bright age of 11. At the peak of my young business career, I remember getting up to 15 yards per week.
As I got to an age that I was able to have an “actual job,” I struggled working for someone else because I was bored at minimum wage jobs that did not hold a ton of responsibility and could not find purpose in it. I was fired from a few jobs for getting bored moving at a speed different than the management above me. I knew that long-term that this was not something sustainable for my life.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
When I was 23 years old. I went to work at a company called Roto-Rooter for a guy named Ryan Willibanks. When I joined the company, I was the youngest person by a long shot. The only other young person there was Ryan, the president of the company.
While I’ve had many exceptional mentors, Ryan was the one who opened my mind up to opportunity, drive, and ability to financially impact myself and my family. I remember the day he called me into his office just to talk. I thought I was going in for a quick meeting, and it turned into two hours of a deep conversation discussing life and what you could and should do with it.
That day really changed something in me. He asked me, “How much money do you need to take care of your family?” With my earlier life in mind, I told him 50K dollars a year, but before I got it out of my mouth, he was grilling me about how that was not enough. At that point, he broke down every penny needed to properly take care of his family each year and it was somewhere around 98K dollars. that it was the one thing that you should NOT accept anything less. That was one area where you do NOT compromise is for a standard of living for your family. Prior to this conversation, 100K dollars income was something I thought was unattainable for me.
Over the next year, Ryan taught me about business, sales, and lifestyle choices to help me reach my goals. He ended up leaving the company where I worked and purchased his own Roto-Rooter. Following his departure, I left about a month later to head into my first business venture.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
While prospecting in the digital marketing industry, one complaint was consistent. Once they signed up for marketing services and the sale was made, they had no clue what they were getting or how it was affecting their business because of minimal communication and education. So, we set out to change that.
Our company stands out by going above and beyond with service. It is about giving our customers a great personal experience throughout their entire tenure as clients. Each client gets a dedicated account manager for a personal point of contact. The account manager has weekly check-in calls with each client to provide an update of what is happening within their account. Our clients really loved this, and we’ve been constantly told that our customer service is exemplary.
One of our clients, Jacob Cotton, who runs an HVAC company down in Louisiana called us a few weeks after he started using our services to tell us how much better our customer service and transparency as compared to our competitors.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Gratitude, grit, and ambition. Each morning, the first thing I do when I wake up is to write 5 things that I’m grateful for. This allows me to start my day off on a positive note and being mindful every day. It keeps my head where it needs to be even when I’m not where I want to be, there is always things to be thankful for and to enjoy the process along the way.
Another thing I quickly learned as a business owner is that every day is not going to go as planned. Somedays are going to be hard. You might be pulled in multiple directions at once. Somedays you may spend more time putting out fires than progressing in other ways. Grit is what is going to get you through the hard days. We call them test days. Having enough grit to do the things even when you do not want to.
Most importantly, being ambitious is going to carry you through the journey. When it seems like the odds are stacked against you, remembering why you are doing this and what you need to do to get through it. Taking risks is part of the game and people are constantly going to tell you to “play it safe” or “you’re better off going and getting a job. It’s more reliable.” You must have the ambition to rise above that and stay faithful to your goals.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let us reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you have received that you now wish you never followed?
The worst advice someone gave me is to “Fake it ’til you make it.” You should believe in the service and product you are selling. You must be genuine in the approach and be confident in it. Then produce beyond those expectations. DO NOT FAKE IT! If you cannot get behind the purpose of what you are doing, you probably should not be doing it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I’m a firm believer that to create a great work culture, you must have company core values. I recommend having 4–5 core values that align with your vision of the company. Then hire people who align with those core values and who have buy-in to the vision of the business. If you can get to their why and purpose, you can show them how they align and make a difference within the company. People like feeling valued.
The core values allow your employees to catch themselves when they feel like they are slipping or when they make a mistake, they are more likely to identify with which core value they are not living out and hold themselves accountable. It also allows a teachable moment in which will further their personal growth even beyond their career.
If I start seeing consistent fallout with the group, I know it is time to have a meeting and realign with the values. It is typically easy to identify which one is falling through.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
One of the best ways to get people to know, like, and trust you is to have a strong social media presence. A powerful way to accomplish this is to add your ideal customers or dream customers to your friend’s list on your favorite social media platform & post daily. Be a genuine person in your social media posting and show that you care about the people you do business with currently.
You would be surprised at the amount of opportunity that arises from the connections on social media and being involved. This partially stems from growing clients, but you also get introduced and invited to other engagements that will continue to build up your reputation as a company. This includes local events, sponsorships, podcasts, and more. When you are relatable and build your brand to be recognizable, people want to interact with you. They want to be a part of something that they see will benefit them or that they can relate to. Then when you get further involved in things such as groups, events, and podcasts, you reach those additional markets above your own.
We have done this for ourselves and our clients and encourage anyone who has a business to also do so.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
It’s no surprise that business on the internet continues to grow every day. Internet and social media give people around the world a chance to connect in a matter of seconds. This means your customers are online and when they are looking for a product or service, they simply use the platforms that are character for them to use daily. The way that media works now correlates with how you run searches on a phone or laptop, and/or use wireless devices in the home that are usually connected. That is why if you search something on the internet, ads start popping up as you are scrolling through your social media feeds. Which has completely disrupted how, and which channels that businesses use to advertise by. Newspapers, televisions, and trusted handshakes have become outdated methods to SCALE businesses.
Then when they want to find a reputation behind the product or service they are looking at. They simply type that into the search bar and can find reviews and testimonials and can most likely trace it back to your social media if necessary. They can research anything and everything about you and your company within a few clicks on their smartphone. It is critical that people can resonate with your character online.
It does not matter what industry you are in, what is important is that you define who your target client is. Then get in front of them. We realize that the most crucial resource that a business owner has is time. Their time is best spent in their expertise, operations, sales, and execution until it grows. We save them time in education and learning, as well as keeping their advertisements aligned with algorithms as they continue to change so they don’t have to. This increases their productivity and puts their time where it matters.
Being that trusted, relatable, and genuine person online allows them to see who you really are and if you are consistent with what you say you are. Actions and words must align.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most common mistake I see people make when starting a company is trying to do everything themselves. Like I mentioned earlier, time is the most limited resource that a business owner has. There is no way for them to adequately do everything and be everything without spreading themselves too thin. Their time is usually best spent within their expertise and maximizing their time in income-producing activities when first starting out. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”
Effectively running a business, includes building systems and processes that give you back more time. It requires making processes duplicable and responsibilities to be delegated. It does not always start with marketing, but marketing is the quickest way for people to recognize who you are and how you can help. Being willing to give up some of the control seems difficult at first but recognizing that time is better spent on tasks that allow the business to grow typically starts with getting something else off your plate to bring something else on.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
The rejection and defeat that you incur never go away no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur. There are times where you spend weeks and months planning products, services, and campaigns that turn out to be a bust and not what you picture at all. Then there are other times that you spend time and workforce prospecting someone and educating them on their needs and answering all their questions and they ultimately still choose to work with someone else.
For someone that works a 9–5 job, while they may experience some failure, they typically still have something guaranteed to them at the end of the day. They may feel some disappointment, but they just move on to service the next. Entrepreneurs are always on the scout for the next person to help, how to find them, and the correct method that is going to bring that next client into the business. The other part of it is that someone with a job typically leaves it at 5. It’s dropped at the door, they go home to their families, maybe get some housework in or some relaxing downtime. For an entrepreneur, it never stops. They never feel like they are doing enough until they turn into more of a business owner and have employees that they can delegate tasks and responsibilities. They have a hard time sleeping at night because of their ongoing to-do list that is either working with the clients or thinking of where improvements need to be made or time spent in a different area of the business.
Although those are difficult to ride out when you see the process work and you begin to feel the fruition of your labor. The highs you experience are far beyond those at a job or even receiving a promotion. In my line of work, when I see specific tactics making breakthroughs for other business owners and when they start feeling the ROI on marketing. You can feel the energy shift. You can see the shine come back to their eyes. You can see their purpose driving them further into their business and at times shift their mind as to how many opportunities they can take up. When you see and feel the impact of what you do, it is a feeling that no words can accurately describe.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
The best high I can remember experiencing in business is when we hit our 100K dollars revenue milestone. I mentioned before that I thought 100K dollars was unattainable, and this is the first time I felt I was breaking a ceiling in the limiting beliefs that had been established through my life. The traction that I was gaining knowledge that the financial struggle I felt as a child was slowly wearing away. While money is not everything, knowing that your process is working and the progress you experience is more than just on the financial front. It makes you grow as a leader and person and only furthers the impact that you can bring to other people.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
After being in business for a few months, we had finally sustained a level of revenue where we could put ourselves on the payroll. Since it was in our first year of business and we had not seen a complete business cycle for our clients, we had to learn the hard lesson of bottlenecking their sales year. We specialize in contracting clients who rely on the weather to continue service, so when the first winter months hit, they started to lay off and experience their downtime of the year. When this happened, we took a huge hit in clients leaving or taking a temporary break.
When that happened, we only had enough revenue coming in to cover our employee’s payroll, but not my business partner or mine. You must put them first and you put on a brave forefront without them knowing what you are experiencing. They are relying on you as their income and for providing for their families. So, when you pay them and not yourself and YOUR personal bills come due and trying to provide for the family you have at home. That eats at you. It takes away your peace and usually your sleep. You know you need to push harder or find more creative ways to help your clients. I remember how much sleep I lost brainstorming ideas on what to offer or how to improve. I remember that it was a feeling of vulnerability that I never want to experience again.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Something that I learned early in business is that when things are going wrong, you need a quick win to get back on track. Sometimes you must take some time to remind yourself of your goals and the small tasks that you need to do every day to achieve them. Make that list, follow up, and execute the process. When you know that you are doing the work, and you can get that quick win. It gains back some of that confidence and peace to get you the traction needed. So, we hit the sales hard and never looked back. Then we continued to ensure that our customer service was up to par.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a goal in mind. — Without a goal in mind, you can easily let the emotions get the best of you and push you towards giving up. At some point, you will feel the emotions and weight of being an entrepreneur can feel like you are carrying around a backpack of 200 pounds. When you have to have a clear goal, it allows you to reverse engineer what you need to do to get back on the road towards it. Making sure that goal has your “why” behind it will allow you to keep you pushing through the hard days.
- Play at 100% every day, not 99%. — Go all-in at 100% every, single day. You must crush it each and every day to keep that needle moving forward. 1% may not seem like a lot, but when it is the percentage differing you from making the sale or not, making a round of final cuts or not, or reaching your goal or not. That 1% matters. Leaving it all out on the table matters. You would rather leave it there and have it not work out than wonder what would have happened if you would have. That is the kind of stuff that eats at you at the end of the day and at the end of your life. When you do not feel like doing it, someone else is and that can be that 1% difference-maker.
- Be responsive, not reactionary. — Being able to think ahead and see issues before they happen allows you to be responsive to a problem and be in complete control of your business operations. This is crucial to achieve as quickly as possible. If you are constantly making snap decisions to problems as they appear you will quickly find yourself snowballing out of control by being reactionary instead of responsive. Knowing that things are going to happen and having a plan on how to deal with it if and when it happens, will allow you to push through the lows.
- Focus on value over personal gains. – One major factor that people do not realize is the financial gains are typically a byproduct of what you give. A giving mentality keeps your mind right and focused on where you can help other people and make an impact on their business. The door to clients swings right open when they see how your character and services help others. When you focus on things like a bank account, it shows that you are feeling lack in some way financially. Lack attracts lack, just as success attracts success and value attracts value. Giving gives you a sense of fulfillment beyond financial success which is why passion behind what you do is important, but overall as the impact is made on the people it reaches also attracts clients and financial success comes with that.
- Confidence = Operating under little guidance. You must have confidence in your decision-making and believe in yourself. Everything you are doing is brand new to you. Every choice you make is the first time you made that choice. You have to believe in yourself with the utmost confidence as you learn to adapt and overcome unforeseen issues.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I would define resilience as someone who never gives up no matter how many times they fail. Failure is just a part of the entrepreneurial role. It makes you get uncomfortable and grow as a person.
Someone who isn’t afraid of change. One of the most interesting parts of the entrepreneurial journey, especially in the digital marketing world, is that you must continue to improve. You might write a standard operating procedure today and a month down the road, they change the algorithm in one of the most used channels that you advertise for clients on. Then you must go back to the drawing boards and test multiple ways to gain an understanding again.
Another key trait is a person who has determination. When they experience failures and losses, they must adapt and overcome.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I think one of the best experiences that build a resilient nature is to be competitive in sports. There are certain challenges and dynamics of playing sports that allow you to transition them into a business perspective.
For me, it was basketball. When I was growing up, I was always the star basketball player. I was putting hours in as a shooting guard. Spending hours perfecting a craft. All through my younger days, I was athletic and the talent was attributed to my tallness. That was until I stopped growing in 8th grade. Prior to then, I had high hopes of playing division 1 college ball. I had been consistent. Then when other players started to outgrow my height, I had to adapt and go back to working skills that would make me a better player. At this point, high school basketball had become extremely difficult as I started to change the role that I had always known. I had to spend extra hours ensuring my abilities to handle the ball so I could drop back to point guard and remain competitive in varsity sports.
Just like in business, where people tell you to play it safe. Everyone told me I was too short to play at a high level. I ended up on varsity all four years of high school and starting 3 of those 4. During my time as a point guard, I set and still hold the record for assists in a single season.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Always. Keeping a positive attitude and staying grateful will guide you through a difficult situation faster than letting your mind fester into a negative space. This is even more important when you make the transition to business owner and your attitude and environment affect the team. Keeping them in the right mindset, helps us move faster towards where we need to be.
I find it easy because when you bring this back to your goals and purpose, it’s easy to drive the negative out of your mind. Every difficult situation has a solution that makes a positive impact in some way. Maybe it was time to improve your strategies. It always brings out the best of us in the end. Knowing this from past experiences has led me to remain calm and stay in a positive mindset for my team.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
As the leader of your company, your employees feed off your energy. How can they be positive if their leader is not?
One thing I have quickly learned as a business owner is that you must continuously keep the environment aligned to your core values. Our environment has to drive our employees to best serve our clients. Marketing channels have elements that change regularly, which means we have to adapt to the change to keep having our ads hit our key performance indicators. It is normal for people to feel apprehensive to change, especially when their habits tell them to remain consistent. So, keeping the attitude and environment in a positive manner has a trickle-down effect from owner to an employee to a client and keeps motivation up to continue to serve to the best of our abilities.
Our positive attitude has brought more than a positive environment, as we have branded ourselves, clients have been attracted by the energy and allowed us to continue to scale. For clients, they want to work with someone who they feel is going to pull them in the right direction. If you are negative, it isn’t going to be there.
A good example I have for both working together is when we have major fires that have to do with our clients. When there is a difficult call that we know we are going to have to make to our clients, I make sure I show up to the call with my account managers and keep a positive attitude. When this has been holding stress on them, the positive outlook immediately changes theirs and can help bring the energy up to the client too. We typically resolve issues smoothly and quickly.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“We May Encounter Many Defeats But We Must Not Be Defeated.” — Maya Angelou
As an entrepreneur and business owner, you experience rejection over and over. Sometimes it can be embarrassing. You will feel defeated more times than you would like to admit, but you must never quit through these defeats. The ones who succeed in business, are not ones who never experience defeat, but continue despite it. You might lose the battles but win the war.
I have been defeated many of time throughout life. I have learned that being defeated can be embarrassing but it happens to everyone and it happens even more to entrepreneurs. You will feel defeated more times than you would like to remember but you must never quit because of defeat. The people who succeed in business are the ones who did not quit after failing.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!