10 Business Decisions That Changed My Life
Since 1998 I founded two internet companies, sold a website to a SoftBank funded start-up, wrote and self-published one of the first SEO ebooks, and delivered millions of dollars in affiliate sales.
I made a lot of business decisions. Many were good, but some were not so good in hindsight. Here's a look back at ten business decisions that changed my life.
5 Good Decisions
1. I Took the Risk of Starting an Internet Business
The best decision I ever made in this industry has to be taking the decision to take of risk of starting an internet business.
Back in 1998 few people had heard of the internet. So it was not surprising that no one supported my decision when I told my friends and family I was starting an internet business.
That fateful decision has enabled me to live and work around the world. I now enjoy a lifestyle that I would never have dreamt possible in my old job as a waiter. Don't get me wrong - I'm not living a millionaire lifestyle. But I have the freedom to do things that I would never have afforded on my waiter's income.
2. I Switched From a Pay Per Hour to Pay Per Performance Business
After I released my SEO book (no longer for sale) in March 2002, I was inundated with SEO work. After three months I realized that I would be better off optimizing my own websites than other people's. There are only so many hours in a day so if I were to work on a pay per hour basis, I would severely limit my income potential.
I understood the true value of a top 10 Google rankings, and realized people just weren't willing to pay what it's really worth. In 2002 the typical market rate for a SEO campaign was only a few thousand dollars, and that was what website owners were expecting to pay. There were firms charging tens of thousands and even firms charging a few hundred dollars.
The fact is a top 10 ranking is potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some niches, a top 10 ranking is worth millions of dollars.
I felt the full power of being paid for my performance instead of by the hour, when I increased my income by 207% in 18 months in 2006. I achieved that not by working harder, but by working smarter.
3. I Do My Own SEO
I have always hand coded my HTML webpages and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) just came naturally to me as a result. I am so glad that I decided to do my own SEO all those years ago. The power of being able to create webpages that rank highly in Google is priceless. I probably would not have achieved half the success that I have without that skill set.
SEO delivers targeted traffic for free. That allows me to reduce the average cost per acquisition of a customer. As a result, I am able to increase my AdWords bids which is sometimes the difference between my ads being shown for a particular affiliate offer, and a competing affiliate who does not have the benefit of the free SEO traffic.
4. I Embraced Google AdWords
Google AdWords as we know it today was introduced in February 2002. I started advertising in AdWords in July of that year. Next to SEO, advertising in Google Adwords is the next best form of marketing I have used. AdWords allows me to micro-target potential customers by keyword and location. Aside from word of mouth marketing, which is pretty difficult to control, I don't know of another form of marketing that is so powerful and yet cost effective.
I have spoken to small business owners who are still skeptical of the power of AdWords. I am astonished as to why they feel that way. If you are reading this article and are one of those people who are still hesitant about advertising on AdWords, let me give you some friendly advice: don't procrastinate any longer. Make it your top priority to learn about AdWords and start a campaign as soon as possible.
Google offer everything you need to know about AdWords on their website. Now they even help you set up your first campaign. You can run a test campaign for as little as $50. If that is too much of a risk for you, then maybe building a business isn't right for you.
5. I Continually Expand My Knowledge
I don't think I read an entire book at school. I used to think I didn't enjoy reading books. That was until I started reading books on self improvement, business and internet marketing. I'm not sure just how many books I've read in the last ten years. I have about 150 self improvement, business and internet marketing books on my bookshelf behind me and I've probably read over 95% of them.
Do you read books? If not, why not? Don't have time? Rubbish. We don't have time to do everything we want, but we can all make time to do all the important things. Expanding your knowledge is so important that you cannot ignore it. Make the time for it.
I make time by reading when I'm waiting for downloads to complete, just before I go to sleep, on the plane, on a train, in the car while waiting for my wife or son, and so on. If you drive to work, listen to audio books and podcasts instead of the radio or CD.
You can find time if you really want to. I have learnt so much from the wisdom found in books that I can honestly say a large part of my success is because of what I learnt from them. I read regularly and plan to continue to expand my mind for the rest of my life.
5 Not So Good Decisions
1. I Sold My Baby
Looking back, I think selling my website, eboz.com, back in 2000 was a poor business decision. The idea of being acquired for half a million dollars in cash and stock by a start-up, backed by SoftBank Capital, which also backed Yahoo! and E*Trade, was incredibly appealing. Remember I was earning a $500 a week as a waiter a couple of years earlier.
The reality was that I lost touch with my site visitors and newsletter subscribers, I lost all control of my sites, and every major decision I made had to be approved by senior management which often took days.
It was probably the worst time of my internet business life. And when the start-up company that I joined imploded after the dot-com bust, I had to start all over again. I felt lost during the two years between selling my company in 2000 and re-establishing myself when I released my SEO ebook in 2002.
There were upsides of course; I got to live and work in North Hollywood, and met my future wife, so it wasn't all bad. I did learn a couple of lessons from that mistake; (1) only accept cash - no stock unless the company is a well established public company; (2) do not work for the acquiring company. I think a lot of other people would agree with that statement.
2. I Failed to Build a Mailing List
Virtually every major internet marketing expert recommend that you build a mailing list. The proof of the power of a mailing list is in the fact that the top 10 affiliates for all the major internet marketing product launches in I have seen recently all seem to be the same names. The one common theme between all these super affiliates are that they all have built up a large loyal following with the help of their mailing list.
I did try to build a mailing list a few years ago. Heck, I even built one up to about 10,000 subscribers. The problem was that I didn't enjoy the process of writing a newsletter every week. I got lazy and didn't email the list for a while. And then I did, a few of the subscribers accused me of spam. This almost got my domain shut down. So I abandoned the list and decided not to pursue that marketing channel.
Note to self: Build a mailing list.
3. I Failed to Invest in Domain Names
In the first week of 2000 one of my referrals for a domain registrar I had partnered with registered something like a couple hundred domain names. It never occurred to me that maybe that person was onto something.
It wasn't until a few years ago when I read about Yun Ye, a mysterious Chinese American, who became a legend in the domaining industry when he sold his portfolio of 100,000 domain names for a whopping $164 million!
I finally realized that maybe I should invest in domain names. So I registered a couple of hundred '.com' domains that I thought I could sell for a profit. Boy, was I wrong! I have had a couple of inquiries but I haven't sold a single domain so far. I even got conned by someone pretending to be interested in one of my domains. It's a long story but the gist of it is they insist on a domain appraisal to get a 'professionally assessed' value. Naturally, the company they recommend has some kind of affiliation with the domain buyer. The bottom-line is that I got conned out of about $70 which is a cheap lesson to learn.
In 2011 I tried again with a different domain investment strategy. And I am having some success, but not quite in the scale of those early domain speculators.
4. I Failed to Follow the Latest Fads
I have never been one to follow the latest fads. I started blogging years after I knew about it. I only joined Facebook a few months ago, and I only joined Twitter because I thought I better register my name before someone else does.
I read about Ashley Qualls who built WhateverLife.com, a website offering MySpace page layouts for free. The site has raked in more than $1 million in Google AdSense advertising revenue and brings in as much as $70,000 a month. Ashley even rejected offers to buy her young company, including one for $1.5 million and a car (valued up to $100,000)!
I have been to MySpace but have never set up my own MySpace page. As such, it never occurred to me that people would be interested in page layouts to decorate their MySpace page. If I had joined the MySpace fad, maybe the idea of offering free page layouts would have crossed my mind and I could have had the pleasure of rejecting an offer for $1.5 million and a car.
Note to self: Follow the latest fads.
5. I Failed to Build on My Success
I often read about successful business owners who say they reinvest every penny back into their business. I have to admit I have not done that until now. I have used the money to provide a good life for my family and I.
Going forward I plan to reinvest more profits back into the business and take less for my family and I. I want to invest in bigger projects, hire more staff, and build a more sustainable business.
Some wise person (not me) once said, it is good to learn from one's mistakes, but it is wise to learn from someone else's mistakes. ;-)