Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I am Leslie Gilmour and I started an SEO agency, Cube Digital, working with local businesses in Ireland. The business aimed to provide great SEO services to small businesses to enable them to compete with larger companies.
Over time the focus of the business has begun to change. For a long time, our main offering was local SEO, on-site audits, and a little link building. The link building has taken off and we now actively work with clients on content marketing projects.
This year has not been a great year for earnings. Total turnover was down around 70% from the middle of March. We are nearly back up to $20,000 - but it has been a hard slog. Progress has amounted to plans being implemented quicker due to having extra time since the middle of March.
One of those plans is spending more of our resources building our affiliate websites.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
As mentioned above COVID created a problem as we worked with many clients in the travel industry, event management, and travel support services. Right after Patricks’ day, I lost 50% of my business. I was in a reasonable financial position and started to focus more on where we were going in the future and what I could do during what I expected to be a fairly quiet time.
Build your product or website where you earn revenue.
My driving phrase was - what do I want to have achieved by the time the pandemic is all over?
Right now we are working and developing three areas.
- Accounting niche
- Current clients
- Affiliate websites
Due to my background in accounting, part of my long term plan had been to focus on digital marketing for accountants. These plans have now been brought forward from 2021 to now and have already been implemented. As I trained as an accountant this has been a fairly natural progression for Cube.
The marketing for this new focus will start at the beginning of September. We are using cold email outreach, Facebook ads, Medium posts, and networking on LinkedIn.
The biggest discovery here - having this focus enabled me to be laser-focused with the marketing, what we write, and our ads. Before it was almost like - yeah, anyone is a target client. That never works well for marketing.
We will continue to work with our current clients and of course work with all the referrals that they send.
I expect the revenue from our website to amount to around 50% of turnover by either mid or end of 2021. Right now we are publishing content daily and building a huge amount of links. All three websites are going well.
This year's lessons have been about cash flow and reserves. Fortunately, the virus hit at a time when we had a good cash reserve. However, managing late and nonpayments since March has been challenging and brought another lesson forward. Normally, we would invoice at the end of the month with a 15 day payment period. We now invoice the day we start a project and payment must be made within the month.
That said, Aug is the first month since March that I am paying myself from the business.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
- Look after cash and profit
The biggest lesson from this year is to have a bigger cash reserve and take more care of net profit. As said, we have been fortunate, but I did not look after net profit and was investing quickly back into the business. This reinvestment will slow allowing us to build up cash once again.
Looking after my energy levels is this year's number one lesson. I appear to be willing to drive myself and my health into the ground for the sake of my business. Eating better and regularly, switching off more often, more exercise - all these are now helping me look after myself and consequently look after my business better.
COVID has been challenging. However, one of the results has been stronger relationships with current and new clients. I have more client calls and emails to find out where we can help.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We intend to grow slowly over the next year, there are no huge plans for fast growth. I have become more concerned with net profit and making sure we survive the next year and keep everyone within the business working full time.
I am excited about the growth we are enjoying in our websites. My first affiliate website is in the travel niche and has lost around 50% of traffic and revenue. The other two sites are in the home niche and both are doing well.
The 18-month goal is a 50/50 split between affiliates and clients’ websites. Longer-term goals will see us lean more towards affiliate websites.
Have you read any good books in the last year?.
The best book I have read during the last year is Reboot by Jerry Colonna. This has had more impact than any other business book I have read. I believe that it is worth buying this book if only for the questions at the end of each chapter.
During my morning runs, I listen to Finding Mastery and Authority Hacker podcasts, both completely different from one focusing on business and the other on self.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
It makes more long term sense to charge the right amount of money from the start. While not charging the right amount I was unable to hire great contractors and ended up driving myself into exhortation by doing too much of the work myself.
Know your market.
It can be scary to pick a niche and go for it, but once I did some many other things fell into place. Knowing my market means that my marketing speaks directly to the right businesses. I can build processes that work again and again and in many ways, the business can become more like a production line. Lastly, it is way easier to continue to build links in the one niche rather than working across many.
Build your product or website where you earn revenue. I have not yet reached the level of earning the same from my websites - but today I earn enough to pay the bills if I ever need to be in that situation. Additionally, they are an asset, these websites can be sold for around 20 to 36 times the monthly recurring revenue.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Right now I am interviewing for an outreach assistant.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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