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Matt Fraser hosted Chris Williams, the founder of Aginto, in this edition of Ecoffee with Experts. Chris recounts his experience in developing a successful business, demonstrating the importance of leveraging one’s resources. Dive in for top tips to get you started on the road to success as an entrepreneur.
For any entrepreneur, the biggest asset that you have is time, spend it where you’re most profitable, and you’ll be successful.
Matt, thanks so much for having me. I’m glad to be here right now.
I was a bad student. I was an unruly child, easily distracted. I played basketball and that was all I really cared about. I used to tell my mom, “ I think the only reason I was able to get through high school was because you had to keep your grades above a certain level to stay on the basketball team.” So, it kind of kept me in line. But I turned it around.
You know what? I don’t know if I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I always had the spirit. So, I remember my first venture into it was buying. I moved out at 19 and I was buying radio equipment, stereos, like for cars and speakers and stuff, and I’d sell them to friends at a higher rate and charge them to install the equipment in their car and send them on their way. And it was just kind of a, hey, I can buy this for a hundred and sell it for two. Why not? I’m going to be an entrepreneur. It was just like, hey, this makes sense, so why not. So, I’ve always had that spirit, I guess.
The amount of people who go into it blindly. The number of people who see passive income or get rich quickly. There’s no way for you to just start something with no money and no time and actually earn a successful income. There’s just no way to do it. You got to put in the work.
When I started, it was just kind of how to get my name out there while growing my skills. Because when you start out, you know, even if you’ve gone to school or been educated or whatever, you’re still learning. In your first year in business, you’re still learning. It’s my 12th year in business and I’m still learning. But you’re learning a lot in that first year, so I was trying to do that while getting your name out there in the right way, it just seemed like there were a million things to do because you’re wearing so many hats and so figuring out a way to manage that time and that effort, optimize that effectively was a real struggle for me at first.
The beginning days of the agency. I didn’t really have any money or a place to live or anything like that. So, it was kind of like, I have to figure this out. I learned to code as a kid. So, you know, I knew some of that. Enough to be dangerous, I guess. But the main concern was how am I going to get business and how am I going to turn one cell into two, three, and four. And you know, as I’ve spoken to people in the past in interviews and stuff, I never thought back then that this was a business. When I saw that, I could turn one client into two and two and three, and then I could actually make real revenue and real income to sustain myself. Then it became, all right, well, let me put everything I can into this venture and just make a go of it.
All right. So, you know, I moved back down here to Florida in 2010. And like I said, I didn’t have any job, I didn’t have anybody that I could rely on. I lived in a local motel for about a year and what I did is I got a nighttime job at the Goodwill, so I would work midnight to eight at the Goodwill and people would drop off their donations and I’d be there and then during the day, I would code websites. And at the time, that’s all the agent quote agency was just me. I would code websites until 2:00 and then from 2 to 3 or 4:00, I would go business to business, and I’d shake hands and meet people. For me, the asset that I had was a lot of time and I was green. I was still kind of learning and so I walked into a place that didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a website and say, I could do that for half the price, but couldn’t do it as well as some of the big companies. But at the time, and so for me, it was like, all right, well, I can do it in half the time and I can learn every single project, I can get a little bit better. And so, I would just go business to business selling websites. I did that while probably the first two years of the business.
Yes, learned as I went. Those first four sites look like hell.
Yeah, I remember the first time I saw WordPress, I’m like, holy crap, this a game changer.
Yeah, I don’t either.
I got a little bit of both, so I’m very comfortable in any room with any person. I don’t care if our backgrounds are different or if anyone is a millionaire or whatever. I’m very comfortable in any room, comfortable in my skin. But I did spend some years working in the industry and that can be a hard sell, for you only get a few minutes in front of somebody, they walk in the door and you’re trying to get them to see the goal at the end of the year or whatever. So, that certainly helps. But I am not a salesperson, I don’t like sales. I just don’t like the sales side of biz dev. And so it’s funny, I was just talking to a group a couple of weeks ago that I don’t think I’ve asked for a sale in five years. I just like don’t ask for the sale.
Well, certainly we outrank everybody. You know, on Google, we’ve been around for a long time. Got a good rep. Yeah, we get referrals, absolutely. So, it’s a mixture. But, when I sit down with a potential client, I’m just trying to provide them with value. They come in and they’ve got a revenue goal of, as you know, they did 1.2 last year and they want to do 2.4 next year and they have no idea how they’re going to get there. I’m just providing them value. Here’s what you’re currently doing, here’s where the areas of growth are, and here’s what your competitors are doing. I literally give them the entire recipe just in the hopes of providing them value, and they can certainly take that information and run. But the type of client that I want is too busy. They’re busy running their business and they need an expert to come in and handle that for them. And so I just continue to provide value until they ask for the sale.
You know, the first employee I hired was a content writer. And that’s because the content is such a big component, we generally call it SEO. You know, I kind of look at that term SEO it’s an older term that’s been around for so long. I can sit down and write something professional but is that what I’m really great at? No. And, you know, it was not worth it to spend all my time trying to write an article about when to change out your HVAC unit or whatever. So, when I got to that point, as I’ve always been a stickler on time management or whatnot. So, I saw that and I hired a content writer, that was my first hire.
So, the SOPs piece was something that I want to say. I didn’t start developing until about year five. Okay. I just would bring somebody on and I’m like, okay, well, I can just train this person. That became such a grind to train a person and then think like, oh, did I train that person on this? And what about this element? As you know, this industry changes a lot. And I remember a mentor of mine asking me to describe, create, or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remember this really clearly. And I told him, you know, you get your bread out and you put your peanut butter on one side and your jelly on the other. And he’s like, All right, that’s not right. Like, where do you get the peanut butter from? I said, Publix. It’s like, what aisle? What type of peanut butter? What type of knife do you pull to use? Where do you find the butter knife and how much peanut butter? What type of bread? Every little detail, every little detail has to be there, so that it can be conveyed to the next person. And so, I started to put that together then.
It was huge and then I have to explain every little detail to every single person. And for any entrepreneur, the biggest asset that you have is time. Even for your time up and spend it where you’re most profitable, you’ll be successful.
Just starting out in business. It’s got to be something you love. I always hear about like, oh, if I could just find something that the world needs or build a better mousetrap or whatever, then I’ll make it. But really, any venture becomes a job at some point. You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve got a routine, I come into the office, and so on and so forth. It becomes a job unless you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, then working 12 hours is not a big deal because you’re having a good time. You’re enjoying it.
The second thing is time. You know when I started Aginto, I had lots of time that were the asset that I had a hold of. So, lots of time to go out and do business or build a website or whatever it might be. As the business grew, I had less time, but I needed more income, and more revenue now. So, I could take that asset and put it into social media ads or pay-per-click or whatever. I use that asset now and deploy it practically. So, whatever asset you have. It’s time you get to deploy that effectively.
I think it’s the most important thing. And you know I’ve talked with some people. I’m not a karma type of do per se. There are you know but there is something to giving back you know giving back to the community that is supporting you. If you’re a local business and you’re in Topeka, Kansas, and you’re growing, that’s because Topeka, Kansas is taking care of you. So, it’s imperative that you give some of that back to the community and help somebody up in the process. Plus, there’s certainly something to who you’re giving back. When you’re out in the community volunteering, who’s next to you? That’s another business owner or maybe that’s a potential customer. It doesn’t have to be, you give back just to give back. But certainly, it has opened opportunities for me.
Well, you know, I started volunteering just in, like a soup kitchen at the Salvation Army about 18 months in the business. So, it’s probably 2012- 2013, I guess. And that was just simply out of you know, I saw that there was a need. I had a little bit of time, I was on my feet and I had an opportunity to get back, so I started there. As time has gone on, my personal time has become limited. I’ve transitioned into more board seats, so I sit on the board at an organization called Parenting Matters, they strengthen families through parenting education and then I’m the board chair at the Salvation Army in Manatee County.
Still volunteering in a kitchen, once or twice a month, but, you know, not a couple of times a week like I used to.
Yeah, I mean, it depends from one community to the next. But in any, especially here in this country, just about any community is going to have underserved, underprivileged people. I would start there. You know, where can you provide help? Take your time and think about it. Serving in the kitchen doesn’t take any particular skill or anything like that. But if you’ve got a skill, like I was at the Salvation Army yesterday and there was a guy there cutting hair. So, if you’re an entrepreneur and you have a skill of a barber, take your skill and see if you can apply that and help somebody out no matter what that is.
And you don’t have to be a millionaire or either it doesn’t have to be a financial investment. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be in your time, It can be your skill, your strength, whatever it might be. But, use it. Use the blessings that you’ve received for good to pass that on.
And there’s a need.
Of yeah, kind of. So, there’s a story to it. I was about two years or so into business and I was on the highway driving down the road during the workday and you know, I had one of my old clunky phones or whatever and I couldn’t hear the guy. I was on the phone with a potential client. I took an exit and it was breaking up. I took an exit and pulled into the library here in Sarasota and got out of my car. I was in a good spot, I can hear this guy and finish my conversation. I got to get back in my running vehicle and the door was locked. You know, back then, at any time you don’t want to burn that gas. I needed to get to an appointment, kind of flipping out. So, I grabbed my phone and searched for a mobile locksmith and I don’t remember the company to this day. I don’t know if they’re still in business or still around or whatever. But I do remember that his website looked like hell, it didn’t look great. But at the top of the page was a blacked-out, call me now, click right here. And I click the button, I called the guy, he came out, he saw my problem and he got my money because he had my solution and he was easy to contact. And it hit me like in that transaction, it hit me like that it doesn’t matter what your site looks like, it doesn’t matter if you have a site, all that matters is if the phone rings. That’s all that matters and so I began to evolve the agency into what it is now, where we focus on making the phone ring and we build pretty websites. Yeah, absolutely. We still do some of those from time to time. But yeah, it’s all about making the phone ring from whatever type of business it is.
Maybe their phone is ringing.
The biggest change in digital marketing over the last few years. I would say it’s happening right now. Tik Tok coming on with an interest graph rather than the following graph that we’ve all been accustomed to. It used to be I wouldn’t even say bad. I don’t remember my space very well. Like, I remember it, but it was more of a personal me out of business thing at the time. So, certainly Facebook and Twitter, and every other social network have been based on your following. I create content, you see it or you might see it and that’s it. There’s no other reach beyond that until you engage with my content. It’s hard coming along with the interest graph and making that change to whether you follow me or not, if your behavior shows that you are interested in the content that I’m creating, that’s going to put it in front of you. That’s changed the game and you see other platforms like I’m a Twitter user, I’ve always used Twitter and Twitter’s videos now have a swipe function and the people that I swipe are not people that I follow, but it is content that I’m interested in. So, I feel like it’s a major shift and I think that all of the platforms that we currently have will migrate to that and any future platforms will be based on that. And that’s huge, that’s huge. It’s no longer about acquiring followers. It’s about creating actual content that provides value.
That’s right, it happens and it’s 100% true. And it happens, substantially more when there’s a technology shift. As Kodak.
Yeah. Think about that. The shift is right in front of them and chose not to focus on that and they lost. Unfortunately.
I agree with you and I’ve been researching. Yeah, it’s out there, and it’s interesting too but what’s here now is Tik Tok or at least the interest graph. And one of the things I’m really intrigued by is human behavior. I don’t think that any human behavior has dictated that the metaverse is going to be here tomorrow. There are people interested in it but the masses are still on that mobile device, and I don’t see that changing tomorrow. It’ll change soon but there’s no reason to believe that it’s going to change into that full gaggle or anything like that any time soon.
We going to be prepared for that but not today.
You know, I think it goes back to just creating content of value. So, whether that is endless and where you just deploy and distribute that content certainly depends on your industry and your audience. And, you know, we can go on and on about falling statistical data about that. But at the end of the day, the content, the collateral is what’s going to matter. So, if your audience is on Tik-Tok, you’ve got to create video content that is X number of seconds long that engages that audience. It provides value to that audience. If your audience is intent-driven and they’re doing a Google search, then maybe you need to create more content that is of written value. But at the end of the day, it’s content that provides value and you’ve got to create it at scale. No longer acceptable. I remember eight years ago, I pull up a website and they’d have a blog and that blog would have once-a-month articles going back.
Once a month article going back five years. No longer is that acceptable.
Absolutely. The more content.
Video and other media. I mean, at the end of the day, you can take a video. Videos are great because there are so many visual learners, and so many people turn in. I actually believe in the video for further reasons because of its repurposing value. You know, if we sit down with somebody, and they pump out a three-minute video, fantastic. But we could turn a 3-minute video into 30-second clips for social media, we can transcribe that for written content. We can take snippets out of that written content for social content. A 1–3-minute video can be repurposed in so many ways. That’s the beauty of video for me.
It’s cool. You know, the only thing about it is certainly any news that comes out, I’m going to review it. I play with Jasper, it’s cool. I think there is some real application in terms of changing the ad copy in your pay-per-click ads or changing the copy on a redistributed piece of social media content. I think it has some really powerful value there. I don’t think there’s value there yet for creating long-form, valuable content. And at the end of the day, it’s just going to come down to somebody doing the research and writing or sitting in front of the camera or on the mic and talking. It’s going to be better than any AI today. A year from now who knows?
One thing I’ll add is any time we have been faced with an opportunity to automate a process. You know, when we talk about SEO, the way it used to be was all backlinks. And the more backlinks you got, the more thumbs up you had and the more thumbs up you had, the higher you would rank. Until those automated processes came along and started just pumping out backlinks by the thousands and Google changed the algorithm. And so I would bet based on Google’s behavior, that if a year from now, an AI platform like Jasper, for example, is able to create long-form written content that is valuable and original, Google would probably change the algorithm. And so we’d be right back to square one. I think at the end of the day, it’s just creating your own original content.
As you said, there are so many. The biggest thing I would say is twofold. Enjoy what you do or you’re going to do and the time management. You have to find a way to spend your time where you are most profitable, and that’s whether you’re a start-up, a brand-new entrepreneur or you’ve been in business for 20 years. You’ve got to find a way to manage time so that you are most profitable while you’re working and you’re focused and locked in or whatever it is. Like when I’m working on a task, I’m 100% on that task. When I’m sleeping, I’m trying to be 100% sleeping, nothing else. You’ve got to be able to block your time off effectively and when you do that it’s going to spill into everything else. You’re going to be able to finish your tasks on time, you’re going to be able to bring on new clients, create revenue, and so on and so forth. Lead your team. All that stuff comes into play when you maximize your time.
Well, certainly they can go to our website at any time. It’s Aginto.com. And like I said, I’m a Twitter user and a LinkedIn user. So, you can connect with me on Twitter, at Chris is bored
But I’m very engaged on LinkedIn. And you could just look me up. Chris Williams, here in Sarasota, Florida.
Thanks for having me, Matt.
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