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“Hire a good bookkeeper and work with them from day one, It will always be money well spent”

With Anne Ahola Ward


Hire a good bookkeeper and work with them from day one. Not following a budget can lead you down a dark road. Getting support on the financial side is always money well spent.

I had the pleasure to interview Anne Ahola Ward. Anne is a Futurist and Growth Scientist and the co-founder and CEO of CircleClick Media, founded in 2009. Ward has written the latest SEO book for O’Reilly, entitled “The SEO Battlefield: Winning Strategies for Search Marketing Programs.” Before becoming a Growth Scientist, she was a web developer for over 10 years, and through her love of analytics, Anne transitioned into the battlefield of SEO as the battlefield was forming. She was named as one of Entrepreneur’s “27 Top Masters of Marketing and PR” in 2014. In 2015 Anne was invited to become an Influencer for the elite IBM Futurist program, and was later named one of the “Top 50 Inspirational Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017” by Entrepreneur magazine. Anne has thrived in numerous areas of technology, having mastered almost every role in web development including DBA, webmaster, developer, graphic designer, and video editor. Anne has appeared on NBC, FOX, Cheddar and ABC and has been featured in The Verge, VentureBeat, Comedy Central , The Daily Dot, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, IBM Commerce Blog, Mother Jones, Search Engine Journal, IBM Watson Blog, Entrepreneur Magazine, Avanza Growth, Tech.Co., Forbes, The Mercury News, NY Times, CNN, TechCrunch, BuzzNation, NME, Thrillist.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

My whole life, I’ve followed what interested me: technology. I started out my career as a web developer and migrated into the field of SEO as it was forming through my love of analytics. I’m an O’Reilly author, Futurist and Growth Scientist. For the past decade I’ve run my own agency, CircleClick, headquartered in San Francisco with satellite offices in Austin and Baton Rouge.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It would be hard to condense to one story. I would say that the most amazing things happen when you let go of standard conventions
 and get creative. Think outside of the box? No. There is no box! When push comes to shove the best marketing is borne out of creativity mixed with gumption, i.e. solving a problem that nobody else can. As the story goes, there was one year at SXSW I hosted Funny or Die and made the news, all because my last group of renters trashed the house. I saw opportunity instead of a disadvantage, I knew I had assets and wasn’t afraid to use them. Read the
story for details.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We help make companies be the best they can be on the internet. I think we stand out because we implement what we recommend, we explore every opportunity we can to help our clients succeed. In the past ten years of working with startups I’ve made some unbelievable things happen, which has earned me the nickname “The Mother of Startups.”

Years ago I had a client get sued by a significantly larger
 competitor and all the gory details hit the press. The general public didn’t really know how to react, which was an opportunity. Instead of the typical response to fight back and call out our aggressor (the plaintiff), we turned things around by using data along with old school advertising formulas to put a cash value on the amount of publicity received by the suit. We gained momentum back for client with their partners, but more importantly- in the public eye.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Employees are there to do a job, not feed your ego or be forced to hear every detail bothering you about your personal life.
 I’ve seen way too many founders who seem to consider employees as their friends, when really we shouldn’t be paying for our friendships. Maintaining healthy boundaries between founders and employees helps everyone feel more comfortable and focused at work.

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?

My late Father. He instilled in me an unwavering sense of ethics. As a world-class internal forensic fraud examiner he taught me professional methods of management and problem solving that have carried me far in life an my career.

I’ve also had some great professional mentors who believed in me before I even believed in myself, Elizabeth Vanneste and Steve Sarner to name a few.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When you are in “the know” about technology and have access to it your world is infinitely improved and full of possibilities,
 however, when someone doesn’t have knowledge or access to technology their lives become limited.

I have been giving back by spreading my knowledge about different
 areas in technology. In the past year I have individually counseled more than 40 women about their careers, and I am actively mentoring three women right now. Spreading my knowledge about tech and its benefits to the masses has become my greatest professional passion. Frequently I’ll do TV appearances or speak at conferences to help breakdown for people outside of the Silicon Valley bubble how there’s a future for them in technology.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  • Find ways to get validation externally.
    Nobody ever told me how it would feel to see my ideas presented
     as someone else’s, but that’s part and parcel of agency life. Clients get to take the credit and you take the checks.
  • Hire a good bookkeeper and work with them from day one.
    Not following a budget can lead you down a dark road. Getting support on the financial side is always money well spent.
     I used to do my own books to save money, but then I’d put it off again and again. The best way to stop digging a hole for yourself with finances is to simply recognize it and get help.
  • Trust your instincts about a potential client or business
     partner, because you’re probably right. It’s been my experience that anything someone will do with you they’ll do to you. I always try to remember the waiter rule, don’t do business with someone who is rude to your waiter or waitress, because that’s eventually how they’re going to treat you.
  • Don’t hire your friends, it rarely works out well and don’t
     give your friend’s deep discounts. If you have a friend who’s hard on their luck, it doesn’t mean you have to make their problem your problem. Being a good friend doesn’t mean putting yourself and your business at risk. It can become quite distracting and exhausting to not know the difference between your work and personal life.
  • It’s OK to trust people, but take the money upfront whenever
     you can. There are those in the world who will steal from you without any remorse. Like all people with a heart, I’ve been kind to startup founders over the years who come to me with a sad story. One time in the beginning of a project, a founder accidentally sent a text to me (meant for someone else) complaining about a bill collector who wouldn’t stop calling her. She was more upset that she was being bothered about a bill than the fact she couldn’t pay it. That really bothered me. I knew in my gut that there would be billing issues and yes, there were.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Pearson’s law. “That which is measured, improves”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.

Mary Meeker. I have always enjoyed the data-driven approach and insights in her yearly reports. I respect her leadership style and her intellect. I was so excited to learn that she’s just started her own firm, we should expect big things!

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