Love your Team and Love your clients: Treat your staff well. In a real sense, your team IS your company. They are the working parts of your business; they produce your products, sell your products, run your processes, deliver your services, they operate your business day-to-day. This allows you to focus on building, growing, and developing your business. This is key to rising to greatness. Your company should love your clients and develop the relationship you have with them like you would any important relationships in your life. Take it seriously; they pay the bills.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Seeley.
Andy Seeley is a master in sales and digital marketing, having led several companies and clients to achieve success. His work redefines what it means to be a people-person, putting everyone’s best interests from individual team members to each client account at the forefront. Andy’s previous experiences have taken him from the retail spaces to the publishing world. Today, Andy leads a team of digital marketing mavens as the CEO and Co-Founder of Creatively Disruptive. In addition to his role as CEO, Andy also actively mentors other business owners and offering timely tips and tricks in Facebook Advertising.
Originally from Hamilton, New Zealand, he currently resides in Surprise, Arizona. Outside of the office, Andy can be found listening to YouTube videos while driving around town or volunteering his time coaching kids sports teams.
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?
My degree is actually in sports science with a focus on team building. I am a New Zealander and moved to the USA in 1999. I have been in media for over 20 years, starting in TV and Radio as a Sales Director then Publisher of a Tourism media company that included Print, TV distribution in Hotels and Video Production. Because we intimately understand that behind every small business is a family with fears, limited resources, and challenges, but also big dreams and entrepreneurial spirit, we founded Creatively Disruptive.
From that, my desire to help small businesses compete in an ever-changing online landscape and empower them to new heights was born — allowing them to compete with the big corporate monsters. There is truly something very rewarding about helping a small family business hit goals they once thought of as unattainable dreams. I love it and have a burning passion for it! We are working hard to supercharge as many small businesses as digitally possible.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
In 1999, I started life all over again at the tender age of 27 with a move to the USA, originally coaching Rugby in Chicago. That in itself was heavy lifting with no support or connections and starting fresh with a clean slate ahead of me. In 2008, I started my tourism media company three months before Lehman Brothers collapsed, sparking the world financial collapse and the great recession. At the same time, my wife, a fantastic Gymnastics Coach, ran a Gymnastics Gym we owned in small-town USA. Here I own two small family businesses when everything around us was falling apart. We quickly got into serious financial trouble, along with 80% of the rest of the world, or so it seemed. Worry took over which led to sleepless nights, and stress on my marriage seemed to be the norm for about four years. It was rough.
My wife’s Gymnastics Gym hadn’t made a penny for four years with her working 60–70 hours a week. However, our little media company had done well and had helped us survive and keep our home without much loss outside of our credit score nose-diving. In 2012, we sold the gym and expanded our media company to another area, and in 2015 sold our media company.
From 2009–11, we considered giving up and heading back to New Zealand with our tails between our legs,. Still, as an immigrant, I knew the opportunity we had in the USA and knew that with effort, right decisions, and smart strategy, everything was possible. Something that simply wouldn’t be possible back in NZ.
In a real way, Creatively Disruptive’s founding was based on those struggles and the feeling of being alone in the fight of our financial lives. I wanted to make sure Small Businesses were no longer alone, and Creatively Disruptive would be there for them fighting the good fight. That’s probably why we are bloody good at it; that’s why some have called us the Small Business Super Heroes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I think the funniest mistake I’ve made — which I think is very common with small business entrepreneurs — is to totally kid myself that I would be a millionaire inside the 1st year of starting our 1st business. That I would do it on a “build it and they will come” strategy with no marketing or sales needed.
I quickly learned that there are two parts to any small business: Products/Services and Sales/Marketing. The two are equally as important as the other. Every successful business must have revenue and revenue drivers, and all revenue is derived from reliable products and services.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company is firmly committed to the belief that people matter and small businesses, including our own, are made of people. Our clients are people, and their clients/customers are people. That is important to remember this possibly more now than ever. That if you take care of your people that they will take care of you.
This is based on our experience and struggles as small business owners in the past. Especially that of feeling alone with no help trying to figure everything out, trying to be an expert in everything, feeling disconnected, that we didn’t matter.
We focus on working with good companies that do good things owned by good people. It’s truly been a game-changer. We treat our clients like we would want them to treat our family. It works, It’s real, and it’s authentic. People feel it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Build your team, work on your business, not in it. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Develop experts and help them find their happy place where they are most likely to discover their genius. Internally hire based on character and personality rather than skill. Do this, and you will have a top-notch team delivering top-notch services and products.
When partnering with agencies and vendors, make sure they align with your way of doing business. Personally, in every interaction, I’m looking at the character and personality of those my company or I am involved with. Do they have our back, and most importantly, do we have their back. When the going is good, we prosper; when the going is tough, we not only survive but thrive. The better I do my job, the less I have to do because my team takes care of business. Invest in your people, and burnout simply won’t happen.
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?
Actually, two people: my wife Tiffany and my business partner Russell.
Tiffany, while working our businesses after the great recession, worked two jobs and never gave up on the goals and dreams and allowed me to continue my efforts to build a company of real purpose and strength. Without Tiffany, I may have been tempted to give up and return to New Zealand or, (much, much worse) become a corporate employee. Her support truly allowed us the time to make things happen.
Russell because he is the yin to my yang. My specialty is in revenue-driving and people management. Russell is technical know-how and has the ability to build processes and find answers to most digital problems and challenges. In a real sense, he is our product and services; I am our sales and marketing. It’s a perfect fit.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Good is a financially sound and operationally stable company with a solid customer base and following. They also have a fleshed-out brand and efficient marketing and sales process for revenue-driving with solid systems of delivery of quality products and services. There are many, many well run businesses like this. They are somewhat unremarkable and are continually struggling to separate themselves from the rest of the good businesses that exist. But they survive and roll on sometimes for decades and generations.
Great: Is a company that has all those characteristics of the good company. But with a couple of significant differences.
1) Great Companies thoroughly understand their “why” and can communicate it in a way that inspires both its clients and its employees. They remember that their why is the mission of what they have and why they do everything they do. They would argue it’s the true product they offer. Their manufactured product or supplied service is the vehicle for that ultimate “why” product or solution. For example, the supplied service we offer is Google Adword and Facebook ad management, email marketing, and website development. But our ultimate “why” service is that we specialize in Small Business Growth with certainty, putting control of growth and how much to grow in the hands of the small business owner. Everything we do is geared to this “why” product.
2) Great companies are made up of great people. Those great people are inspired by the company’s mission or “Why.” They love their company, and more importantly, their company loves them back. This in turn means the company and its employees love their clients, causing a fanatical love of the brand and company by their clients. It’s underlined in action that proves this inspiration and love. My strategy and the bedrock of building this is our ability to hire employees of great character and personality. We don’t focus on skill because we can train skills but not character. But with good character, our employees learn quickly, and because we are very concerned with helping them find the work they love to do, they often find their genius. The result? Extremely happy customers that are fanatical about the brand, employees that love what they do and produce genius-level work for our clients, which results in a great company.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Work on your business, not in it : Can you see the forest for the trees? When you are in the trenches during the day to day, you don’t know what needs development and don’t have time to develop. Learn to delegate to the awesome team you are going to build. That will allow you to do the one thing ONLY you can do. Build your own business. Be the captain of your ship, not the crew.
- Develop a culture: Develop a culture that fits your industry and fits your mission. Your culture should inspire your team and guide them in making their decisions. Your culture is the day to day living embodiment of your mission statement and a driver for your vision statement. To me, it’s the soul of what and how we operate.
- Develop your team: Be the dumbest person in the room when you are having staff meetings. Refine and develop your hiring and recruiting skills and methodology. Hire people based on character, not skills. Then help them find the work they love; this will help them find their genius, producing an exceptional work quality. Support, develop, and care for them, and they will do the same for your company and your clients.
- Know your “WHY”: This is key to finding your culture; it’s the soul of your company and a great guide to almost all decisions. Why are you in business? Why should your employees care? Why should they be inspired? Why should your clients care? Why do your clients buy? These are usually distilled down to 1 or 2 sentences that can always be referred to when making moves, changes, and decisions. “By doing this, are we in alignment with our Why?”
- Love your Team and Love your clients: Treat your staff well. In a real sense, your team IS your company. They are the working parts of your business; they produce your products, sell your products, run your processes, deliver your services, they operate your business day-to-day. This allows you to focus on building, growing, and developing your business. This is key to rising to greatness. Your company should love your clients and develop the relationship you have with them like you would any important relationships in your life. Take it seriously; they pay the bills.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose-driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Purpose-driven businesses inspire to things greater than themselves. This, in turn, inspires staff and encourages customers to do business. Think TOMS shoes. People buy TOMS regularly because they support the cause of giving shoes to people that need them. But you can also take it deeper and adapt your culture to your purpose. For example, we have purposefully developed our business around the treatment and care of the people we are involved with, from clients to employees to organizations or charities we support. We work from the place of working with Good Companies that do good things run by good people. It is in a real sense a litmus test that we apply to everything we do. It’s our way of improving our little part of the world.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Often the standstill or stagnation is one of a couple of things: a lack of motivation and passion or an inability to scale. This is typically due to leaders working far too much in the day-to-day of their business, causing burnout and loss of motivation or an inability to delegate and team build, leading to the inability to scale the business. As leaders, the one job we can’t delegate is the guiding and strategic direction of the company. Everything else can be delegated if you trust your team to do it. It’s easy to get drawn into the day-to-day, but it’s tremendously important that you don’t so you can focus on Strategy, Planning, and Development. Your primary role is to communicate direction, monitor and manage the performance of your team executing everyday operations. Find your passion and motivation again, and build your team and resources to allow you to scale. A good captain keeps his eyes on the horizon and destination goal, not only on his ship’s deck.
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?
Our primary strategy is looking at the problems people have in our industry and pivoting quickly to solve and support them. Tough times often unearth more opportunities than good times do. The key is to have the ability and confidence to take them on.
More people are looking for help and answers during rough periods, be a source of knowledge and help, and at minimum, you will grow your brand and reputation. Most likely, you will draw many more new and ultimately very loyal customers. Remember, pain adversity is the most potent driver of change in humans. Challenging times unfortunately, creates a lot of pain and adversity. Ask yourself how you can use this to drive results for both yourself and your clients and if you can, you have a recession-proof operation. For example, we pivoted hard quickly to our eCommerce offerings, knowing with lockdowns in early pandemic that people would be purchasing more online than ever before, that secured revenue.
In our KAC (Kids Activity Centers) niche, we focused on supporting those clients that were closed and supporting in a real way.
When they reopened, they remembered what we did for them when they were closed and flocked to use when they reopened. Lastly, we decided to open a new niche during the pandemic and lockdowns a niche that has been crushed. Restaurants, We have added so many new restaurant clients who are now desperately looking to connect digitally with their communities, something they had neglected during the good times. We also have very little competition in this niche due to people assuming it’s a lost cause. These moves have allowed us to have the best 3rd and 4th quarters in our history and three back to back record months. Who would have thought solving problems and helping people during challenging times would be profitable?…We did.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Team and culture building
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience, what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Target people that are most likely to convert. Using the power of online marketing and the amazing algorithmic technology available to us. It’s never been as easy to find people most likely to buy from us.
Help the client understand their problems/issues/pain. Help them find how those problems/issues/pain affect them personally. Show the client you know them and care about them. Show them the solution to their problems/issues/pain. Then how the solving of their problems/issues/pain makes their life better. Remember why a client purchases a product or service and focuses on that and not the product or service. IE you buy a winter coat not to buy a coat but to keep warm and comfortable. The coat solves the problem/issue/pain, and life is better with it.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
It might sound stupid, but to behave in a way that your clients love and develops trust — putting people 1st, even in a digital age. Make it a real thing, be authentic don’t fake it. Deliver on your promises and make sure expectations are set well, so promises are kept.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
The people-centric approach has always worked for me, giving your staff a wow experience to work in, and giving your clients a wow customer experience. Make the people you manage and serve feel important and special and mean it. If you don’t care, you will struggle. Be authentic and real… It goes a long way.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
I don’t share this concern. However, I’m not surprised by corporate boards being concerned about this. They tend to move slowly and change course like the Titanic; they are also massively risk-averse. I see social media as just another two way channel of communication with our audience, clients, and potential clients but on a mass scale. Not that much different from email campaigns and other forms of communication. What my advice regarding this is to treat your social media as you would a print magazine or tv channel populating it with interesting, useful, and inspiring stories and content that inspires and excites your audience to engage with your brand. Showcasing your culture and the way you operate and develop the Fear Of Missing Out and a sense of connection with your target audience. Considering corporate America’s poor reputation on how they treat people, I can see how they struggle to do this.
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?
Poor hiring and lack of focus on staff development and care, forgetting that culture is important.
Avoid this by developing processes and operations that make these things a focus. As a CEO, it is your job to be the facilitator and developer of a great staff and the culture they work in. Be relentless; it never stops. As a wise woman once told me to say “better never stops.”
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I feel people are very divided the world over between those looking at government to solve their problems and those that want government out of their lives. It causes a lot of angst and ill feelings. The truth is I believe the cause and solution can come from the same place — placing people 1st in our lives. If, as communities and as people, we supported one another as a village did 200+ years ago, there would be little need for government and its encroachment on our lives. I would love to start a movement that supported people and community efforts to support each other — bringing communities closer and people together. Something we have missed in this digital and pandemic age.
Oh, and I would teach people to turn notifications off on their phones and re-engage a little with their lives and loved ones.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Follow our company FB and Instagram pages and Youtube channel , Creatively Disruptive.
Connect with Creatively Disruptive on Linkedin. Personally, you can follow me on twitter @AndyDisruption. You can check our website at www.CreativelyDisruptive.com.
If you run a Kids Activity Center or Restaurant you can join our groups at The Gymnastics Marketing Group and the Restaurant Marketing Group
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!