Reflecting on 25 Years in Business: Advice to My 30-Year-Old Self

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I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss. I regularly listen to his podcasts as he deconstructs world-class performance to try and see what makes people successful.

During many of the podcasts, Tim will ask his guest “What advice would you give to your 20 or 25-year-old self?” Since this is our 25th birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the advice I might give to my 30-year-old self…that young man who was just founding Haley Marketing.

My Advice to Me

  • Get involved in the staffing industry. It took us many years to really get involved in the industry associations. But attending conferences, learning from ASA and SIA, and getting to meet so many incredible staffing owners and executives has been invaluable to our growth. In 2017, I joined the ASA marketing committee, and in 2020 I took the helm as chairperson for that amazing group of people. Like most things in life, the more you give to something, the more you get from it.
  • Invest in better people than you can afford. As a startup, you tend to try and do everything on a shoe-string (unless you have VC backing). But good people pay for themselves far faster than cheap ones do.
  • Challenge your fears. Most people in the industry who know me would be surprised to know that I used to be TERRIFIED of public speaking, and I am still really uncomfortable at networking events. But at some point, I forced myself out of my comfort zone, and eventually, I discovered that I could actually get good at—and enjoy—the things I feared. (Ironically, the fear part never goes away, but you can learn to control it!)
  • Take risks. Make mistakes. I HATE being wrong. I hate looking foolish. And as a result, I tend to be overly cautious. But the greatest successes come from lessons learned. And the mistakes are rarely as painful as you think they will be.
  • Invest more in marketing than you think you need to invest. 25 years ago, when we were starting a marketing company, you would not think we needed this advice. But as a startup with no money, we were WAY too cautious about investing in marketing. As a result, it took us longer than it should have to become profitable. Marketing investments allow startups to become profitable faster. They reduce the impact of economic downturns. And they let you recover faster after a recession.
  • Brainstorm relentlessly. This is something I have always done, but I often wondered if all the brainstorming time was worth it—especially since the vast majority of ideas don’t get implemented. However, it’s only from constantly rethinking our products and services that we have been able to adapt, evolve and grow. Constant innovation is one of our top keys to success.
  • You can’t cut costs to sustain profitability. While it often makes sense to trim the fat, no company ever achieved greatness by cutting expenses. Entrepreneurs must be willing to constantly invest in the areas that can drive growth.
  • There is no such thing as a “marketing emergency.” I get it. No one wants problems with their marketing. But often we see people acting as if a 5-minute outage is the end of the world. Being in panic mode is counter-productive. When something goes wrong, call a time out. Make sure the right parties are aware of the situation. Communicate effectively. And work as a team with your co-workers, clients, and vendor partners to find the most effective resolution.
  • Don’t fear website development. You may find this ironic. My wife and I both have IT backgrounds, and yet we were really hesitant to get into the website development business – it took us seven years to do so! We recognized that websites are actually software applications, and like most software, websites are never done. We feared that our clients would be constantly dissatisfied because their websites would require constant updates. Well, we were wrong. In 2003, we first started offering website development services, and it has been one of the best decisions we ever made. Websites are the most important marketing investment a staffing firm can make, and by applying our unique Haley Marketing business model to website design, we have found ways to deliver award-winning sites, great ongoing support, and fulfill our mission of making world-class marketing more affordable.
  • Great service is harder than it looks. But it is also essential. As a small business, we’ve always struggled to balance the level of service we provide with the cost of providing that service. Around the time of the Great Recession, we were short-staffed, and we felt it in terms of projects taking too long and too many unhappy clients. Since that time, we revamped our products, completely redesigned our approach to service, hired a lot of amazing people, and put systems in place to better support our clients. In 2020, despite the challenges we faced, we added a senior level Director of Account Management, SEO and PPC specialists, and this year, we just hired a new CMO and we are scaling our tech team. The investment is HUGE, and most of that investment is non-revenue generating. But the end result in terms of quality, speed, efficiency, and client satisfaction definitely justifies the cost.
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